Way back in June, John and I tried a restaurant in our neighborhood called Shabu Shabu House, despite having no idea what “Hot Pot” meant. It was a Tuesday in summertime and the place was empty, so we bellied up at the bar and chatted with our server, TJ (who we learned is also the owner). While we sipped wine and munched on delicious potstickers and edamame, TJ guided us through our first hot pot experience.
Hot pot refers to the metal pot set into the table, filled with simmering water. The method dates back over 1,000 years in China and is popular all over Eastern Asia. While we watched, TJ added flavorings, spices, and condiments to the water, beginning a broth. Beautiful plates of veggies and herbs waited on deck: bok choy, various mushrooms, tofu, carrots, cilantro, sprouts, jalapeno, lime.
Before the veggies were added, TJ brought us our platter of sliced beef. We’d had various protein options, like shrimp, other seafood (fish ball?), chicken, tofu. We learned to use our chopsticks to swirl a slice of beef into the simmering hot pot, simultaneously cooking the meat and flavoring the broth. Shabu Shabu is Japanese for “swish-swish.” We dipped each bite into soy sauce or a tasty peanut sauce- scrumptious!
When we’d enjoyed all of the beef, TJ returned and added the veggies, herbs, and udon noodles to the broth, creating an incredibly flavorful pot of soup. We’d also ordered some pho with rice noodles, not realizing how much food it would be!
In June, I remember feeling worried that such a unique neighborhood spot was empty. I assumed that during colder months, it was more popular- hot pots are traditionally considered fall and winter dishes. We returned this weekend with some friends, and the place was packed– thankfully, we’d made a reservation!
TJ was our server again, and his friendly demeanor added to the pleasure of eating the delicious meal. We opted for beef again, and the swish-swish and soup afterward was just as yummy as the first time we’d tried it. My only tip is to be sure to switch off the hot pot before the veggies get overdone.
I love the process of a hot pot – from the seasoning to the swishing to the fresh ingredients and the filling bowl of soup at the end. I enjoy the interaction during the meal- it’s fun to have your dinner prepared in front of you while you chat with your server. You can adjust the spiciness, based on your preference, and can opt for brown rice or rice noodles if udon isn’t your thing. The flavors deepen with each step of the cooking process. It’s perfect for a winter day, taking your time to enjoy each stage of the meal, feeling it warm you from the inside.
Park City’s nighttime temperatures have been hovering around 10 degrees; ‘tis the season for the hot pot. I can’t wait to go back!
**One year ago: Be in love with your life- even on a sick day.