Summer in Hong Kong is sweltering, sticky and suffocating. But that should not get in the way of enjoying a hotpot with friends in a lovely, cold air-conditioned restaurant like Megan’s Kitchen.
I admit that my friends and I often reserve hotpot for those ‘colder’ winter months, and back in the UK it is certainly one of the most satisfying meals to have when everything is frosted over and bowls of soup don’t quite hold the same appeal. Chinese New Year is the time when my family has hotpot (or steamboat as we call it in Malaysia), but really there is no set occasion for it. I remember once getting out my portable butane gas-powered cooker and having hotpot for two in a slight desperation to finish eating all the leftover meat we had from a previous night’s dinner party. But here in HK, I no longer do hotpot at home; instead, Megan’s Kitchen is friends’ and my go-to place for a raucous, warming, social dinner. So last week, three of us found ourselves sitting in one of the ‘posh’ booths musing over a selection of broths and meats.
If you are a hotpot virgin, then in a nutshell, hotpot involves boiling a metal pot of stock in the middle of the table and whilst it simmers, cooking a variety of ingredients in the pot at the table. Typical dishes include thinly sliced meat, vegetables, meatballs, fishballs, dumplings, wonton, seafood and then adding noodles at the end. Everyone gets their own ladle and serving chopsticks to dip in and out of the pot and pick and choose what they want to eat. Once cooked, you then eat the food with a dipping sauce that you can concoct yourself!
Making my dipping sauce is my favourite part of the whole experience. Usually you start with a base amount of soy sauce and then you can add in varying amounts a mixture of sesame sauce, XO sauce, chili oil, minced fresh garlic, hoisin sauce, spring onions and fresh chilis, to name a few. If you are feeling decadent you can crack a raw egg into the mix. Delicate tasting of the completed sauce with the end of a chopstick can make anyone look like a pro in the kitchen perfecting a dish.
At Megan’s Kitchen, there are a few exotic homemade soup bases to choose from and the other night we ordered a trio of different broths so there would be no one left out. We ended up with a third of the pot of very frothy tomato and crab soup in soufflé finish, a third of the Malaysian satay soup and a cleansing third of Winter Melon soup with lotus seed, dried scallops and Chinese ham. A few fried appetizers of fried diced tofu in salty egg yolk and deep fried squid with spicy salt, and our soups were boiling and ready for action.
Out of the meats, beef is the most popular to eat at hotpot, and we went from the local Snowflake beef and US boneless short ribs which were delicious. Plates upon plates of meatballs, dumplings, veggies and instant noodles and udon made us three girls extremely happy and I was grateful for a large appetite as we may have over-ordered! Special dishes to try at Megan’s Kitchen are the Rainbow Cuttlefish balls, the chicken & quail egg meat balls (loved these) and the Japanese beef with black truffle dumplings. I am also very partial to the beef balls with stuffed cheese which should come with a ‘HOT’ caution as the boiling cheese centre has taken off the roof of my mouth before!
If the hotpot feast is not enough, then there are always the desserts, but I say enjoy the hotpot, eat at a leisurely pace and knock back a beer or two.
Megan’s Kitchen, 5F Lucky Centre, 165-171 Wanchai Road, Wanchai Tel: 2866 8305
Opening times: noon-3pm/ 6pm-11.30pm