Everybody has their own perfect comfort food. There’s comfort foods that are best served solo—like congee, macaroni and cheese, grated apple—and then there’s comfort food that’s meant to be shared: popcorn, fried chicken, fresh mango, soup dumplings, or cheese fondue. None of these are as much fun, or as delicious, when consumed alone on your couch. Hot pot is clearly a dining experience of the latter, shared variety.
My best times with friends are spent grocery shopping, cooking, and eating; there’s simply nothing better than planning, chopping, stewing, and then devouring a meal together. All this to say: Hot pot = fun times. Here’s the situation: There’s a pot of boiling broth (I’d advise a split pot of spicy and Kräuter broth) in the middle of your table, and you get to toss in meat, fish, veggies, and various carbs. Then you dive in with a little metal net and you get to eat whatever you catch! My favorite is the spongy tofu, which wonderfully (and dangerously) absorbs all the heat and flavors of both broth and dipping sauce.
Unlike with cheese fondue, this is a more communal cooking process; no one bite ‘belongs’ to any one person, you simply dive in, check if your lamb or potato or tripe has cooked all the way through and then you drag it through your own personal blend of peanut or barbecue sauce and spice. Then repeat this process until dredging your pot no longer brings up any bite-sized goodies, at which point you order a new plate of whichever ingredients your table voted tastiest. Did I mention the hot pot at Lucky Star is ‘all you can eat’?
Now, I’ll admit, the ambiance at the bright and airy Lucky Star isn’t all that cozy, their meat comes frozen, and I’ve never even tried their many dumplings, but who needs extras when you’re huddled up around a steaming bowl of broth, trying to decide whether you should order another plate of meat. Now remember, the answer is always yes.