Dear Food Diary:
When it comes to hot pot, Flushing just rules over the other boroughs. With so many options, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is top on my list.
I couldn’t take this cold weather any longer, so we ventured into my old hood yesterday for some good old steamy dipping fun. Seriously, the perfect winter fix a train ride away.
A little history on Hot pot (aka Chinese fondue)
Mongolian Hot Pot serves as the forerunner to the modern fondue. Its history stems back hundreds of years to the nomadic Mongols, where tribes would gather together around a fire to cook fresh meats in a communal pot with simmering broth. Overtime, hot pot is refined, but the fundamental ideas of fresh and healthy ingredients, sharing, friendship, family, and the excitement of gathering around a dinner table remains unchanged.
(From Little Sheep website)
Little Sheep has over 300 locations around the States, Canada, China and Japan. The Flushing one has a modern decor, plenty of seating. Great variety of fresh ingredients. Very clean and good service.
Though hot pot is a more communal meal, there’s no shame in what I like to call “steamy dipping” alone. They offer individual pots.
Their set menu is about $15 ($9 for weekday lunches), which gives you a good mix of protein and vegetables. We ordered a la carte which ended up about $40 per person (a little hefty, but good quality). I think the best way is to get the set and add what’s not included. Most ingredients come in half portions, great for someone like me who wants a little bit of everything.
I was too scared of the House “Mala” Spicy and since StakerBoy isn’t big on fiery dipping either, we got their House Original. A mix of herbs with beef and chicken bone stock. I spotted jujubes fruit, goji berry, black bean, garlic, scallion, sesame, ginseng, but their signature blend also had herbs I couldn’t identify. The herb flavor is present without being medicinal. Well balanced and perfect for dipping anything.
If you can’t choose between the two, there’s a split Ying Yang pot.
There’s really no rule when it comes to what you want to dip your cooked ingredients in. My favorite concoction consists of: satay sauce, soy sauce, sesame or peanut paste, fresh chives, Chinese cilantro and garlic. This is my must have when it comes to hot pot.
Protein wise, the Angus Beef was nice and tender. But the Pork Belly won the pot. A nice mix of lean and fat. Not only did these paper thin slices cook in seconds, but it also made the fat less noticeable. The texture was almost buttery, without that clogging bite of fat of a thicker slice.
I hear their lamb is really good, unfortunately I don’t eat lamb.
The usual suspects – leafy greens, tofu and a variety of mushrooms. A norm in any hot pot.
As for greens, I prefer chrysanthemum greens, it has a distinct bright flavor and sweetness. Snow pea shots, watercress and napa cabbage are also great picks.
Tofu wise, the frozen spongy tofu works well in the hot pot. Absorbing enough liquid for flavor without falling apart.
I love all the mushrooms, but enoki and king oyster mushrooms both have unique textures and the ability to flavor the broth without overpowering. They absorb the broth in their own way, without losing their own characteristics.
Other favorites include lotus roots for that sweet crunch. Taro‘s smooth starchy texture, sweet potato and corn.
A good hot pot also consist of having a variety of balls and seafood. Their fresh handmade shrimp balls are fantastic. Naturally sweet and tender. Bouncy to the bite.
I wish Manhattan had a decent Chinese Hot Pot restaurant or anything comparable to Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. Hou Yi Hot Pot in Chinatown is one of our only options, but it doesn’t even come close.
136-59 37th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354