Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fast Food Hot Pot

Once we discovered how hot pot "works" here in China, it quickly became one of our family favorites. Holiday celebration meals including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter have all taken place at fine hot pot establishments in Beijing and Chengdu.

But what about a daily dose? Since a formal hot pot experience can take around two hours, it is sometimes difficult to find (or justify) that expanse of time on, say, a weekday.

Discovery: Xiabu Xiabu

The winding counters of Xiabu Xiabu (resembling that of a 50s diner but decked out in bright orange) were a mystery to us early on. Found mostly in malls, this restaurant is always crowded, but it was not clear to us, passing by, what is actually served. So when Nathan heard of our query (thanks, Nathan!), his expertise in this line of dining shone through. All he had to say was, "fast food hot pot," and we were there!

Xiabu Xiabu is an incredible place. Plate after plate of fresh veggies, thin-sliced meats, and all of the accouterments can be seen whizzing by, carried by enthusiastic young wait staff. Tons of twenty-somethings (and even a few teens on lunch break) can be seen cooking up their own combinations of "yum."

At Xiabu Xiabu, each person receives his or her own pot, thus the communal act of double-dipping your kuaizi in a pot with all of your best buddies becomes a non-issue for the squeamish. You can even choose the pot that is right for you alone. For Steve and Julie, it's mala de (spicy). For Z and me, it's bai de (not spicy, but clear).

It's fun to watch what the people across from you order. Our items look much different from those chosen by many Chinese customers. For us, the colors orange and white seem to dominate our plates, as our selections usually include sweet potatoes, chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, noodles, frozen tofu, and hot pot dumplings. For the Chinese, green is the color of choice. Piles of all types of greens shrink to a fraction of their raw size as individuals boil them up for good health. Different meats, mostly lamb and seafood, are also on their menu. We make a point to order foods out of our comfort zone each visit. Our latest taste bud-tickler is ou (sliced lotus root).

If I had the opportunity to bring one franchise back to the US from China, there is no doubt that Xiabu Xiabu would top the list. It might be cost-prohibitive, though, since the prices of fresh vegetables and meats would probably be to high in the States for this type of establishment. For the four of us, a meal costs around 70 kuai (with drinks!) The drinks alone would cost that back home!

Our solution? Get it while we can. My personal goal is to eat at Xiabu Xiabu once a week and no one has complained yet!

It's chopstick-lickin' good!



At 10:23 PM, Blogger Dora Y. said...

My mom says it's a great 2am snack run.


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