I woke up this morning, wandered into the kitchen for some breakfast, and was in shock when I finally looked out the window. Heavy heavy snow! Good time to post about my dinner at hot pot from last Sunday!
For those of you unfamiliar with hot pot, it’s basically like Chinese fondue. There’s one large pot filled with a flavored soup, simmering for the entire meal. Some pots are designed with a divider in the middle so you can have a regular soup on one side and a spicy version on the other. Thinly sliced meats, seafood, vegetables, dumplings, and tofu are traditional menu items which you cook yourself. As a communal meal, hot pot brings friends and family together and is a treat!
There’s only one restaurant in Edmonton that serves the hot pots individually, making it different from all other hot pot places. With your own pot, you can choose your own soup base and it’s more convenient to cook your items at your leisure. Asian Express Hot Pot is one of the most popular hot pot locations and you can expect a long line-up on Friday nights and weekends if you didn’t make a reservation! And at $23.99 per person ($15.99 for ages 3 – 9), you better come starving. Tip: Come in clothes you do not care about. You will smell of hot pot goodness when you leave. Unless you plan on showering right after, do not have any other public outings for the night or people will wonder why you smell.
First step with the all-you-can-eat (-in-two-hours) menu is to choose a soup base. Only #12, ginger and green onion, is free while all other soup bases are an extra $1.50 per person. If you choose to have your pot split so you can have a spicy side, it’s $2 per person. I’ve tried the herbs and lamb, wild mushrooms, Szechuan, and a taste of Joe’s Tom Yum Kung before and unless you really crave a different taste, I’d recommend sticking to the free soup! It’s just as flavorful and your dipping sauce will be just as important.
Next step, order to your heart’s content! As per the rule of all-you-can-eat places, only order what you can eat. I recommend loading up on seafood and meat items with a few orders of vegetables or noodles. Just mark down the quantity of each dish that you’d like. The one criticism I have of this place is their portion sizes. One order of sliced lamb sometimes can look exactly like three orders. Don’t be shy to order in higher quantities, they only give you a dish full anyways. Once you order for the first time, you’ll be able to gauge how much more you want. As soon as you’re done your first round of orders, flag down a server and hand them your paper. Tip: Request another order sheet as soon as you hand them your first. When you’re running out of om noms, you can quickly jot down a second order and keep the food coming! No pauses in between!
You can also order a cold drink to cool yourself down while you’re ordering. It gets pretty humid in the restaurant despite cooling fans and an open back door. With seating for almost 40 people (think 40 individual steaming pots), it gets pretty hot. Perfect for winter though. Joe and I ordered the peach and guava juice drink, which seemed to be on every table that night. I really liked the guava juice!
Once everything is ordered, hop on up to the sauce station. Here you can make your own dipping sauces. There’s a variety of choices (only one side of the station shown in the photo) and it can get overwhelming. Stick to the bottom shelf if you’re a beginner. I haven’t dared to try the top shelf of spices yet either!
Mix in whatever you like, you can always go back for more. My two sauces are always simple: soy sauce, spicy sambal sauce, garlic, parsley, and green onions for one side and hoisin, sesame, parsley, and green onions for my other. One day I’ll get adventurous and try other combinations but for now, this works for me.
By the time you head back to your table, your soup pots will most likely be waiting for you. On the bottom edge of the table, you will have heat settings. Crank it up all the way (240 or P5, depending on which mode you’re on) and watch your soup boil.
Your menu items will come out steadily and sometimes on a rollable metal tray so you can discard your dishes. Here are some of the things we ordered:
One of my favorite menu items is the handmade balls of meat, shrimp, or fish. You can get the meatball and fishball combination (comes with one of each ball – 5 total) or order them individually. And order of one though literally means one ball though! Again, don’t be shy! Joe enjoys his sliced lamb more than anything. The photo above is an order of 7.
Another favorite of mine is the handmade mashes. They’re the same as the balls but you can choose how much to put into your soup. They expand quite a bit and it’s worth ordering if you don’t mind scooping it out yourself versus pre-made balls.
You can get your money’s worth with meats and seafood, but I still need my veggies! We usually order watercress and spinach and I like winter melon (think honeydew, but not sweet).
After re-ordering multiple dishes, it’s time for carbs! As a general rule, noodles are usually left until the end. You can mix everything into your pot but you will get full really fast! I only wanted half a portion of udon and half of instant noodles. With previous experiences, an order of “1” came out with a whole piece. and Order of “2” came out with… a whole piece cut in half. So to be accurate, we ordered “1/2” and it worked out well!
These photos were from another outing with more items. The featured beef has more fat content than the sliced beef sirloin. The basa fish is super good and if you’re up for oysters, you can go nuts.
Full yet? Probably stuffed. There’s dessert though! You get your pick between ice cream or a Chinese goji berry jello – both to cool you down.
I’m hoping this helps people who have never tried hot pot. Now that winter’s here, it’s a great place for dinner or late night eats.