• The broth is made with roasted pork, beef and marrow bones, with 18 herbs and spices. (Audrey Bourget)Source: Audrey Bourget
Unlike most hot pot joints where you cook your food in a big simmering pot at the table, malatang shops do the cooking for you and you pay for the bowl by weight.
By
Audrey Bourget

7 Sep 2018 - 1:22 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2018 - 1:23 PM

Not that long ago, the idea of eating in the neon-lit food court of a shopping centre was not exciting. But things have changed. Not only have shopping centres upped their game when it comes to food, some, such as Emporium in Melbourne and The Galeries in Sydney, have become destinations people visit specifically to eat.

Located on the ground floor of Westfield Doncaster, in Melbourne’s north-east, Hot Hot Pot is part of this new breed of shopping centre restaurants. It’s the baby of Joe Wee Lim and his wife Joanna Zhang.

“This type of hot pot, malatang, is from the Sichuan province, in China,” Lim explains to SBS Food. “We tweaked it a bit and gave it a modern touch.” Unlike most hot pot joints where you cook your food in a big simmering pot at the table, malatang hot pot shops tend to do the cooking for you and serve it in a bowl.

Unlike most hot pot joints where you cook your food in a big simmering pot at the table, malatang hot pot shops tend to do the cooking for you and serve it in a bowl.

How does it work?

The first thing you’ll notice when you get to Hot Hot Pot is the wall featuring around 70 ingredients, which change with the seasons. When SBS Food visited, there were a few types of thin-sliced meat (pork, beef and lamb), seafood (squid, pipis, prawns, mussels and scallops), many types of vegetables (such as mushrooms, water spinach, bitter gourd, pumpkin and okra), soy in various forms, as well as several types of fishballs and meatballs. If you feel adventurous, there are options like duck blood pudding, beef tripe and fish balls filled with cheese or curry sauce. 

You put all the ingredients you want in a bowl, then pick among six types of noodle, including la mian and vermicelli. “I recommend putting a bit of everything. Don’t go full on with something. For example, if your favourite is broccoli, don’t go full on broccoli. Try different items, it’s what makes the best bowls. You want different textures and flavours,” says Lim.

Your bowl will be weighed at the counter ($1.60 per 50g) where you’ll get to choose the level of spiciness of your soup: mild, hot, extra and insane. Malatang means “hot spicy soup” so unless you can take the heat, you’ll probably want to stick to the first two levels. The base broth which is added to your selection is made by slow-cooking roasted pork bones, beef bones and bone marrow with 18 herbs and spices, including Sichuan pepper, star anise and mandarin peel.

Your bowl will be weighed at the counter ($1.60 per 50g) where you’ll get to choose the level of spiciness of your soup: mild, hot, extra and insane.

After a few minutes, your massive bowl will get back to you, cooked and ready to eat.

Two sides will soon be added to the menu, a refreshing pickled jellyfish and cucumber salad and a crispy snack platter. And if you went a bit too hard with the spice level, you can cool down with one of the homemade drinks, which come naturally flavoured with ginger, aloe, honey & lemon, sour plum or red dates.

Hot pot for all

Lim got an engineering and telecommunications degree in Malaysia, before his passion for food and an encounter with Jamie Oliver led him to study restaurant management at Le Cordon Bleu in Adelaide. He has since worked for large hotels and the China Bar Group overseeing the expansion of restaurant chains like Wonton House and Secret Kitchen.

“In Chinese culture especially, food brings people together. We always get together and have large dinners. Everything happens around food,” he says.

With their new venture, Lim and his wife would like to make hot pot accessible to everybody, whether you’re with a group or dining by yourself. “We wanted to educate non-Chinese about how to eat Sichuan hot pot,” he says. So fill up your bowl, don’t hesitate to ask questions and dig in!

 


Hot Hot Pot

Shop G047 (next to Coles), Westfield Doncaster, VIC

Sat-Wed 10.30am to 8pm, Thu–Fri 10.30am to 9pm


 

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