660 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111
To start off our month of healthy eating in Chinatown, we decided to go with the most obvious option – Hot Pot. I love this meal, mainly because it isn’t just a meal but an activity and an experience. Hot Pot (which is also called by the name Steamboat or Shabu Shabu – the Japanese variety) is a wonderful, warming cuisine that consists of a bubbling pot of flavorful broth and a selection of pristine raw ingredients such as thinly sliced steak, chicken, or an array of seafood, and a variety of fresh vegetables, all of which you drop into the broth one by one.
Quickly the food is cooked and you fish it out with your chopsticks or the wire strainer that is usually provided. After cooking the meats and veggies you can dip them in your dish of soy sauce that you personalize with scallions, cilantro, garlic and a savory fish paste from dishes on the table. Besides your dish of dipping sauce, you are given a plate and a small bowl. You can use the plate to hold items that have just cooked so they can cool a bit. (Warning: the treats you take out of the broth will be *hot* so do be careful not to burn yourself.) You can also ladle broth into the bowl to make a little soup to drink.
Ultimately, there is no “right” way to eat Hot Pot, but be warned that it can be quite messy – so dig in and enjoy! On a very cold day, we went to Q Restaurant, which is a venue that is a bit flashier and more upscale than many of the restaurants in Chinatown; they even have a separate bar area.
However, despite the showy appearance, Q Restaurant has some nicely priced lunch specials. I ordered the Beef Combo ($9.95) and added on a Mushroom Platter (for $8 because I could not resist) and the other Diva ordered the Veggie Combo ($8.95). With the Combo you have a choice of noodles or rice – I opted for neither as I am not allowed grains on the Whole30 and Diva #2 went with the rice (although she bemoaned the fact that brown rice was not offered). We also ordered two of the premium broths (at $3 each): the Korean Kimchi and the Black Bone Chicken broth.
The Hot Pot was brought out to be put on the hot plate in the center of our table and turned on to simmer. Since we had two kinds of broth it was served in the so-called “Ying-Yang” pot that is divided in two by a curved barrier, one side red (containing the Kimchi Broth) and one side white (containing the Black Bone Chicken broth). While our broth was coming to a boil, our platters were brought out: we each got a plate of vegetables that included spinach, cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, tofu and a piece of corn. I got a plate stacked with a lovely pyramid of thinly sliced rolled beef and we each received a plate of assorted mushrooms as the veggie combo came with one and I had ordered an extra one for myself.
The Korean Kimchi broth was piquant and a little spicy, and meat and vegetables cooked in it took on that flavor which was very tasty. The Black Bone Chicken broth was equally delicious but different.
Imagine the richest, chicken-iest broth, with mild spices and cilantro in it, and you would be close. For those of you who don’t know, “black bone chicken” refers to the Silkie breed of chicken, which have pale fluffy feathers but have black skin and bones (which you can see in the photo below). Black Bone Chicken soup, in traditional Chinese medicine, is meant to have excellent healing properties, especially for “intimate feminine” disorders.
Since I am on the Whole30 this month, I am forbidden soy sauce (soy beans = legumes), so I was unable to partake of the dipping sauce. I did however mix the broths in my bowl and added garlic, scallion, and cilantro, making a very nice zesty soup that way. All of the ingredients, the vegetables, beef, and vegetables, were fresh and tasted delicious but the best part, I believe, was the mushroom platter. It had an impressive array of mushrooms, including the enoki, button, oyster, king oyster and wood ear (my favorite) varieties.
This was an excellent Hot Pot experience and my first time trying Black Bone Chicken broth which is now certainly something that I will seek out. Overall, I would say we stuck to our healthful plans and yet still had a delicious and decadent lunch!