Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hot Pot

People that know us well are probably a little surprised by the absence on here of a topic that occupied a large proportion of our time in London. We love food! Whether browsing menus, cooking ourselves or eating out… it is something we enjoy immensely and are very passionate about.

Being in Shanghai hasn’t changed anything. In fact, with a whole new choice of restaurants on our doorstep, our obsession has probably only increased. Not only do you have the whole array of cuisines that you have at home, you also have many different Chinese cuisines to try and experiment with too – there’s Yunnan, Szechuan, Cantonese, Tibetan, Shanghainese… just to mention a few. On top of that, our cooking time has (sadly) seen a decline… apartments don’t come with ovens, western ingredients are harder to come by and are very expensive and most of our time isn't spent in the flat… which means eating out has become even more of a hobby.

I think it’s fair to say that our weekend adventures, while taking in many new sights of the city, usually centre around a new restaurant we want to review, brunch we want to test or cuisine we want to try. Trying to write down all those experiences is a daunting task! I think we’ve probably been putting it off as a) we’re too scared about starting and not being able to stop (we considered making this a food only blog at one stage) b) we’ve been so overwhelmed by what we’ve experienced already that doing justice to it is hard c) we don't know where to start.

So now it’s time. We’re just going to jump right in! And where better to start than with a very Chinese evening out…


So far, we’ve taken all our visitors to our favourite Hot Pot, and visited it ourselves a couple of extra times with local friends too. It’s a really fun evening out, not just for the food. Hai Di Lao Hot Pot is renowned for its customer service, along with its food, and it doesn’t disappoint. While you wait you are kept fed and watered with something that resembles popcorn, watermelon and some sweet, sweet Ribena type drink (plum juice). You can also have your shoes shined or take a trip to the free nail bar while you are in the ‘queue’. The entertainment doesn’t stop there… Throughout the evening, you are treated to a display of ‘noodle dancing’ – a guy spinning around and twirling the noodles before dumping them into your Hot Pot.

Once you’ve sat down, your table is adorned with little touches to help you stay safe and comfortable. A plastic apron - so you don’t spill food down you, a cover that goes over the chair with your bag on it - so it can’t be pinched, a clear plastic bag for your phone - so you can still use it but it doesn’t get dirty on the table and a glasses cleaning set - so you can clean them when they fog up from all the steam!

The Hot Pot itself is more like what we would call a fondue. You have a choice of two broths – we’ve tried spicy Szechuan (which makes your tongue go numb in a strangely addictive way), tomato, green pepper and ‘normal’. Then you pick your ‘dips’. Everything from the ordinary – sweetcorn, a million different types of pak choi, steak, noodles, chicken, yams, to the less ordinary – unidentified fish balls, chicken heart, duck feet, animal organs… To complement your Hot Pot, you can also make up your own sauces from a huge array of flavours on offer. My usual is a mix of sesame oil, celery, spring onions and soy sauce, but that’s keeping it reserved!

All in all, it’s a really fun night where you can easily while away a few hours… we'll be taking all our future visitors there too!!

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