Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

Date Night #4: I Heart Hot-Pot

To celebrate Chinese new year, I took Zach out for hot-pot. We were both excited because neither of us had ever tried hot-pot before; my family is Cantonese so we don’t eat much Szechuan cooking (and if we do, we don’t tell my grandma).

A friend of mine told me about a place on 12th and Jackson called Szechuan Cuisine and said it has the best hot-pot in town. I decided that this was the perfect time to try it out, but when we arrived, the place was packed and there were ten people ahead of us waiting for a table. I was too hungry to wait an hour, so we walked across the street and ate at 7 Stars Pepper instead.

We started with the scallion pan cake, which was amazing. Zach likened it to eating really delicious sour cream and onion potato chips, but that description doesn’t do it justice. The pan cakes were crispy, flakey, chewy and came with an incredible dipping sauce. I couldn’t figure out what was in the sauce; it was red in color, but instead of being hot, it was slightly sweet and very addictive.

As we were both hot-pot novices, we decided to try the deluxe hot-pot for $11.99 per person. A portable burner was set on our table and turned on high. A large, divided bowl containing two broths, one plain and one very spicy (way too hot for me), was put on the burner to heat. After the broths were simmering, the waitress came out with a seafood platter containing beautiful, tender raw squid, fish, prawns and fish balls. Then came another plate with thick udon noodles, thin glass noodles, tofu and napa cabbage. Finally came a gorgeous platter piled high with paper-thin sliced raw pork, beef and lamb.

We had no clue what the proper procedure was, so the waitress did a little pantomime for us. We started dropping food into the broths and then fished it out with little wire baskets. We then dipped the food into an accompanying peanut sauce, which was less sweet than a thai peanut sauce and very good. I was shocked at how delicious the whole meal was, especially considering its simplicity.

After I ate the last slice of meat, I realized that I had been having a food blackout. I suddenly looked up and realized that there were other people in the restaurant. I had developed tunnel vision and all I could concentrate on was eating and exclaiming how good it was. Over and over again. Luckily, Zach didn’t mind because he was doing the same thing.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

11 Responses to “Date Night #4: I Heart Hot-Pot”

  1. Brandon says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I saw this post today and thought it sounded like a great meal for valentine’s day dinner so we went and it was awesome. We just got the meat plate and skipped the seafood for the time being. I’m glad we did because we had more than enough food. Our waitress actually came over and taught us how to do it. It’s a good thing because we had absolutely no clue. Anyway, the dinner was incredible and I thank you again for pointing it out to me.

  2. megwoo says:

    Hi Brandon,
    That’s great to hear! I’m glad you enjoyed the hot pot. I think next time I go I’ll just get the meat plate as well—the deluxe was just too much food. Did you get the two types of broth or just one? Our hot side was covered in about a quarter inch of chile peppers and I’m now wondering if we were supposed to scoop those out before eating. Any idea?

  3. rowena says:

    I made a hotpot dinner last week for the first time…my husband being italian thought it was wonderful, and your photos are only making me want to do this for dinner again!!! Thanks for such a great post and yummy food pics.

  4. Brandon says:

    Yeah, we had both spicy and regular. We didn’t have many peppers floating on the top of ours but down on the bottom there were a ton. I think you are supposed to keep them in there because the waitress just told us to start tossing meat and tofu and noodles into it. We took home what we couldn’t eat and I’d be willing to be all the peppers are in our leftovers. Thanks again!

  5. megwoo says:

    Hi Rowena,
    That sounds great! I can’t wait to make hot pot at home now…

  6. megwoo says:

    Thanks Brandon! That’s good to know. It’s always a little intimidating the first time you try something and don’t know the rules.

  7. cindym says:

    I’m so jealous. I’ve been meaning to try hot pot ever since I saw Lost in Translation …it seems like perfect Seattle food – warm and filling for those rainy days. There is apparently good hot pot in San Fran at some Best Western motel downtown – it sounds slightly sketchy, but I might have to go for it now.

  8. rosten says:

    Yes, definitely try the sichuan recipe for hotpot. We had it in Chengdu and it was really different from the other times I’ve had it. The sichuan pepper definitely gives the hotpot an awesome (slightly numbing) twist. I’m really curious to see what you think of the pepper and the “la” taste as an ingredient. I have yet to use it for anything but that novelty effect, myself. With regards to eating the hotpot, one trick about the spicyness (which is kind of obvious I guess) is that it gets hotter and hotter the longer you let the broth cook. So, if you get a yin/yang style, you can cook your food in the spicy one asap and then use the less spicy one after your mouth goes numb!
    Let me know how it works. BTW that picture of the pig paper scraps is hilarious, it says DIY on the package but I had no idea they meant it so hardcore like that. There’s really no instructions?

  9. megwoo says:

    Don’t wait! Go! It’s so good. Eating at a Best Western does sound a little iffy, but it may very well be worth it…

    I’m going to try making hot-pot on Sunday, so if I like the recipe I’ll post it so you can try it from the safety of you own home.

  10. megwoo says:

    Hi Rosso,
    I was really excited to see that there was a hot-pot recipe in the book you gave me. I’m making it on Sunday (I’m having a hot-pot and Iron Chef America watching party), so I’ll let you know how it goes. I just need to try and find rock sugar…

    I love the section in the book that talks about all the different flavors and cooking styles. My favorite was the “strange” flavor, which I think was a combination of hot, sweet, sour and numbing.

    Thanks again!!!

  11. Lexi says:

    Mmmmmmm. Hotpot. God I miss it so much. Think you can ‘hook’ it up with the recipe? I used to live in Nan Chong, about 3 hours from ChengDu by bus. Hotpot = my favorite food ever, and I moved back to the states about 9 months ago and now all I think about is hotpot. Haha, and the chinese venders that have the stir fry stuff that the chinese call ‘bbq’. That stuffs really good too. Well if you feel like helping me out and sending me the recipe, here’s my email address. Dropstoporeo@gmail.com…….. Thanks [:

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