Hot pot cooking is an experience that you need to try. Mr. Brian and I ordered, cooked, and ate at the popular Donglaishun Restaurant on Qianmen Street in Beijing, China. This was not part of my tour; it was a courtesy that Mr Brian extended to me after the tour day was over.
I was asking Mr. Brian if we were ever going to eat at a hot pot restaurant on any day of the tours that I had scheduled. He said no. As I mentioned how much I wanted to try a hot pot a couple of more times, he had the great idea to take me after the day’s tour was over.
I have been really wanting to try a hot pot, after seeing it used in a scene in the Chinese movie “Together” (“He ni zai yi qi”). In the scene, the father is getting ready to tell the music teacher that he is fired. He is buttering him up with a hotpot meal before breaking the news. Good move. Available on Netflix.
With the planned sightseeing done for the day, I returned to my hotel. Mr. Brian came back a couple of hours later on his own time to take me the hot pot experience that I so desired. I was very happy that he did.
With a short taxi ride, we were there on Qianmen Street approaching the Donglaishun hot pot restaurant entrance. Up an escalator, and we were in the present of good eats.
Hot Pot History in Beijing
Hot Pots have been in Beijing since the Mongols conquered that section of northern China in 1215. Beijing was known as Yanjing back then, and was the capital of the Jin Empire before the Mongols sacked it.
There is debate that the hot pot, though available and used by Muslims, did not become popular with the Han Chinese until the Manchu army defeated the Ming army in the 1700s. Whenever it happened, it was a great addition to the Beijing food scape.
Shape and Use of a Hot Pot
The shape of the hot pot varies, but the preferred Beijing style is a metal funnel with a trough of liquid attached to the outside. This is the traditional shape that is put directly over a wood or coal disk fire. The center opening allows the fire exhaust to escape through the top.
The trough itself is divided into 2 halves. One half will have spicy liquid, and the other will have “mild” liquid. Most cooking is done in the trough itself. You will place various raw vegetables, sliced meats, and noodles in the liquid of your choice.
General accepted practice is to cook the vegetables first, meats second, and noodles and potatos last. Food is prepared so that it only takes a couple of minutes before you lift your items out ready to eat. You can dip the cooked items in some really great sauces. Some people will actually grill meat in those hot gases escaping the top opening.
Be prepared that a “YUM!” will try to escape your throat every time you take a bite of this great food.
Is There a Feng Shui Angle to This?
Mr Brian, my guide that day, explained the hot pot liquids to me. Being ever the feng shui expert, he related it in these terms.
The trough is one half “yin” liquid (the mild, also associated with the female), and one half “yang” liquid (the spicy, also associated with the male). I was fine with the spicy, as it was not that spicy. I have had spicier. This was a pleasant spicy, not the “Is there any part of my mouth left?” spicy.
Choosing and Ordering from the Menu
As this was my first time at a hot pot establishment and the menu was in Chinese, I let Mr. Brian order. He would offer suggestions, and I would give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Having selected several items including vegetables, meats, and noodles, we sat back and waited for the hot pot and food to arrive.
The Bottom Line on Cost for Two
Pricing was a bit higher than I expected, but it was a NICE restaurant. Of course, everything was so cheap elsewhere in Beijing that this just seemed expensive. It was still way cheaper than I would have paid in the States for a fancy restaurant. The best thing to compare it to would be a fancy restaurant in New York City. That certainly would not be cheap!
Just like a fancy place in New York City, this area has high rents, adding to the expenses that this restaurant would have to cover. Other hot pot restaurants in Beijing would probably be less expensive. I volunteer to test that theory on my next trip to Beijing. -wink wink-
With the bill total of 325RMB, and a good tip, we got out of there for a total of 360RMB. In American dollars, that would be about $57.00. That total included a generous amount of food, our drinks, really good service, the tip for that good service, and a great time.
My Thoughts on the Experience
As I said in the beginning of this post, I and Mr. Brian had a good time. That is true. I really did enjoy this time out on the town after a day of hard sightseeing. It was a chance to sit and reflect on the day. It also gave me a chance to absorb Chinese city culture in an unhurried manner.
I really, really suggest that you do this. As there are both spicy and non-spicy cooking liquids, you are not committed to one or the other. While there are several branches of the Donglaishun Restaurant, I can vouch that the Qianmen branch is excellent.
Please share this with your pals. Also, comment below if you have had a hot pot before, or you are looking to have your first in Beijing, or you have questions about hot pots. 😀
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