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« The Mystery "Huo Guo" Contest | Main | The Xiao Long Bao Experiment »

Saturday, 29 April 2006



My favorite part is mixing the sauce. I can never decide which one I like best, so usually end up with a confused (but very good tasting) mass of everything! lol.


That looks absolutely fabulous.

Hotpot novice that I am, I can see that when I wrote about my adventures with East Buffet's hot pot in my eGullet foodblog, I had no idea what I was missing. Or what the hell I was doing, for that matter. :-) Oh well, life is full of such learning experiences.

By the way, Kirk, I was wandering around a portion of your old stomping grounds earlier today, up in Monterey Park. All I can say is--wow. So many restaurants, so little time. Next time I'll definitely want to hit you up for recommendations in the area (yep, I remembered about Chung King, but I was a little wary about eating super-spicy food right before a three-hour drive home).


Wow Kirk, I have never seen anything like this! The pictures kinda frightened me a bit but after your explanation I feel like I'd like to give this a try. My task now is to locate a restaurant that serves this unusual dish.

So did anyone guess the right answer?


I've never seen the likes of that pre-marinated fish. I would've not known that it was fish at all, let alone something that is to be cooked in the clear broth. I learn new stuff everyday here! Thanks Kirk!


Hi Kathy - That's why those sauces are you can create your very own flavor enhancing concoction.

Hi mizducky - Email me when you plan your next adventure...and I'll be glad to email you a list of our favorites.

Hi Jean - Have you ever had Shabu-shabu? This is sort of like that - or think of it as fondue with is good.

Hi Elmo - Well, not to say that the fish tastes terrible in the spicy broth - but I thought it really did taste much better in the clear broth.


I've never had shabu-chabu - and I should, because it's quite popular here. This post seals the deal, though. Next meal out will be shabu-shabu if I have anything to say about it!! You chose everything I would have chosen too!!


Hi Jenn - Hope you're feeling better, can't wait to see the post.


Kirk....looking mmm-yoso!


Hey Jack - Very delici-yoso!!!


Hi Kirk,

I just stumbled upon your very helpful site looking for some authentic, regional (besides Canton, Shanghai) Chinese food in the SD area. I just went to Ba Ren today and it is wonderful (tho the restaurant can use some ventilation). I am surprised that it isn't as spicy as I would expect from tradtional Sichuan. Is Chongqing style less spicy than Chengdu? My parents would always say that stuff from Sichuan is SO spicy (esp. liangfen), it'd numb your mouth (not just peppercorn). Anyways, I look forward to more adventures there and continue to follow your site!

Xie xie Kirk xian sen.



Hi Peter - Welcome and thanks for commenting. As far as I know, from reading as well as others - Chengdu style Sichuan is not quite as spicy as Chonqinq style Sichuan - in fact we ate at a Chengdu style Sichuan restaurant recently in Rowland Heights, and it was a bit milder, but used alot more peppercorns. I've heard from two people who have been to Sichuan, and both said that the food at Ba Ren is similar to the food they had in Sichuan(except in price!), I think that ChungKing in Monterey Park is a bit more spicy. So maybe your heat tolerance is pretty high! Personally, I enjoy the different "layers" of heat, but not all the dishes are really blazing hot per se..... Try the Spicy Cold Chicken - or the Fried Prawns with Chilies, those dishes have a nice amount of heat.


Huo guo is sometimes so expensive. How much was the huo guo that you had there Kirk? How many people? I was thinking of taking my family of 6 to eat it, but I don't want to break my bank!


Hi Karen - I don't exactly remember. I think the hotpot was $14.99 to start(for two of us...but enough for 3-4), and everything else was al a carte. It was not cheap. If you click on the first photo, the price list will enlarge. BTW, if you drop by Ba Ren, you can always pick up the menu and latest price list.


I've never had huo guo in San Diego since past experiences when I lived in the Bay Area have been hit or miss. So I just stopped going out for it and just make it at home.

Making it at home can be fairly easy, less stressful too if you give yourself a couple of days to prepare for a larger meal. Best thing to use is an electric wok. I like to make fresh broth from chicken bones but sometimes I get lazy and just use canned chicken broth. You can pretty much use any kind of meat you want. You can ask your butcher to slice the meats very thin or you can do it yourself at home (freeze the meat until it's just starting to freeze and then cut thin slices--CAREFULLY). Sauces, again, can be anything you want. I use a simple sauce of sesame paste, soy, chili sauce. Add more soy to make a thinner sauce. This is about as exotic as the Mister likes.

One of the things that we love to have in our huo guo is fish balls (Japanese brand) and fish cakes (kamaboko). My mom used to add saurekraut when she couldn't find pickled cabbage so sometimes I add that to the stock. The Mister loves a side of saurekraut with his meal.

I do highly encourage people to try to make this at home. Even without a hot pot, you can make it on the stove in a very large pot and then serve that right at the table. Great for Chinese New Year!


Does anybody know where I can purchase a hot pot (the type with a divider plate)? I've been to China many times and "Huo Guo", or hot pot, is one of my favorite meals. I'd like to buy a table top model, not the type that are inserted into the table).


Robin, there are different types of table top hot pots. The one my family used was the one with the chimney in the center of it and used coal. I use my electric wok because it's so much easier. I did a quick search on Amazon and there was 2 different types. Also, check out under Household & Kitchenware. They have the Yuan Yang Hot Pot. This is the one my aunt uses at home (I've never seen it so don't know how well it works). I think this model is also in Amazon so you can look at the descriptions. I'm not sure where you're locate but I think I've seen one at 99 Ranch on Clairmont Dr. in SD. Many Asian stores in LA carries them too.


Carol: xie xie ni. (Thank you). Where do you buy the thinly sliced meats? I've heard that if you partially freeze the meat slicing is much easier. This might be ok for steak, but not for chicken. Also, hot pot restaurants in China put many spices into the broth (garlic, ginseng, star anise, poppies, etc. etc.). Some restaurant use upto 60 different spices. What do you use?


Carol: I forgot to tell you, but, I live in Pennsylvania (with the Amish). So, Chinese restaurant supplies and ingredients are virtually non-existent. But, when I invite some friends over, I plan on going to Chinatown in Phila for some ingredients (bagged hot sauce, bok choy, leeks, ginseng, etc.).


Hi Robin - Carol has many great resouces! Thanks Carol. Since it sounds like you may have to do mail order. I've ordered from the Wok Shop a few times.

And the quality has always been excellent. You described the Yuan Yang style hot pot, which they carry:

You may want to see what shipping will be like.


Hey Robin, bu ka qi (you're welcome!). There's got to be a store in Chinatown that sells them, no? If not, the links Kirk provided might be your best bet. The Wok Shop has a nice selection of hot pots! That stainless steel one is kinda cool. The Yuan Yang hot pot from has its own heating element where the one from Wok Shop needs a separate hot plate or portable stove.

I usually slice my own beef and chicken but ask your local butcher if he'll slice the meats for you. The chicken breast can be a little tricky cuz it gets a little slippery. I have a large Chinese butcher knife so it makes slicing very thin meat fairly easy.

For the broth, when I'm not lazy, I will make either beef broth or chicken broth from scratch. I usually add garlic, ginger, scallions, star anise, a smidge of salt, and a dash of white pepper. I prefer the beef stock but the chicken stock takes less time. My mom likes to use pork bones cuz she thinks it's more savory. Let us know how it goes!

OT, while shopping in downtown Philly the last time I was there, I noticed there was a huge selection of martial arts movies in the stores and even saw a kiosk with them (with Shaw Brothers movies-don't see that often). Apparently it's a huge market in Philly and I found it amusing.

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