This year’s festivities are much more subdued due to the pandemic, but I still had an enjoyable time bonding (and eating!) with the family over the weekend. To save on the hassle of preparing an elaborate meal for our reunion dinner night, we decided to have hotpot/barbecue out on the porch. We bought most of the ingredients in advance so we wouldn’t have to rush to the market on the few days leading up to CNY.
Aside from the quintessential pork belly slices (you can get these from the local butcher nicely packed), our hotpot ‘buffet’ also had all the other essentials: chicken and fish slices, pork balls and fish balls, needle mushrooms, squid, seafood cheese tofu, fried beancurd sheets, and for carbs, udon noodles. Moomins opened a celebratory can of mini abalones – they’re especially cheap this year due to a dip in demand.
We bought a 2-in-1 BBQ/hotpot stove from Lazada, just for this.
The soup base we used was from Hai Di Lao. We bought the shrimp flavour thinking it would be mild, but it was actually quite spicy. It also had preserved vegetables, which gave it a sour tang. Personally, I prefer something milkier and sweeter, so I will probably go for another flavour the next time around.
I know processed foods aren’t the healthiest, but seafood cheese tofu and bursting pork balls (above) are my favourites whenever I have hotpot. Seafood cheese tofu is usually made from surimi, so the texture is bouncy, and it has bits of creamy cheese within; while bursting pork balls are so called because there is hot soup in the centre, so caution should be taken whenever you bite into them so the juices within don’t spill everywhere and burn your tongue.
My parents weren’t keen on the pork belly slices, so my brother and I ate most of them. I can safely say that I ate my fill lol. I prefer mine cooked in the hotpot, because they tend to get crispy and hard on the grill (I like mine to be soft so you can taste the texture of the fat and lean meat). Dip them in some soy sauce and chilli, and voila! Magic. We rarely have hotpot at home, so this was a very satisfying experience.
By the time we finished dinner and the washing up it was nearly 10pm. We had initially planned to have our yee sang right after, but everyone was too full, so we watched Bad Genius on Netflix and waited for midnight.
Instead of the usual salmon yee sang, we got a fruits version this year. My cousin and his girlfriend are doing it as a part-time business, so it was our way of showing support (I also sent two sets to friends). It was basically a fruit salad consisting of green and red grapes, strawberries, mandarin oranges, carrots, pomegranates and dragonfruit (we didn’t add this in because it was too soft and watery), plus toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds. In place of plum sauce was honey.
All in all, good, albeit on the sour side despite the addition of honey.
After all that feasting on reunion dinner night, our first day of CNY was tamer affair. Traditionally, many families will observe a vegetarian meal after the extravagance of the previous night – we had a simple meal of udon and mock meat with fried egg for lunch. Also spent the afternoon playing mahjong. Everyone was rusty, because we only do this once a year lol.
I received a nice surprise on the morning of Day 2: my friend H sent me a CNY package!
Went out in the afternoon with Pops to Moon Palace Restaurant, to pick up our order of poon choi. For my non-Chinese readers, it’s basically a Cantonese dish comprised of a pot filled with luxurious seafood and meat items, which are then poured over with a rich sauce. Due to the large portions, it is meant to be shared, and you’ll often see it at festive occasions like Chinese New Year and weddings. I’ve only had poon choi once or twice during food reviews, never with the fam, so it was a first for all of us.
Our poon choi came with abalone, dried oysters stuffed with fat choi (a type of cyanobacteria with the appearance of human hair – it sounds gross lol but tastes like seaweed), roast duck, poached chicken, brocolli, huge shiitake mushrooms, abalone mushrooms, prawns, yam, scallops and roast pork. The oyster sauce that was to be poured over coagulated slightly from the cold, but otherwise everything was excellent. I especially liked the abalone mushrooms: they were thick and juicy. It’s no wonder people use them in making imitation meat – the texture is very similar.
And finally, to round up our 2nd day, another round of yee sang; this time vegetarian.
While this CNY lacks the cheer and pomp of yesteryears, I think I actually enjoyed it more. The weekend was spent bonding with the fam, playing Divinity 2: Original Sin, embroidering (new hobby!), and just eating. Like a lot. I think between Pops, the brother and I, we finished five cans of snacks and a dozen canned drinks. Also, I got no exercise in at all, so it’s not surprising that I gained 2kg.
It’s back to the grind tomorrow, and I’ll be getting back into my workout routine as well.
Would you line up for THREE hours just to eat hotpot?
Well, that’s what a lot of people do on a regular basis at Hai Di Lao, the popular Chinese hotpot chain famed for its spicy malatang soup. Founded in 1994, the restaurant has over 935 outlets all across the world, including in Malaysia.
When the chain opened its first shop in Sunway Pyramid back in 2019, the hype was insane. Reservations were fully booked for months, and if you wanted to try the queue, you had to go early to get a number. People recounted how they had to queue in the morning just to get a slot for the afternoon, or if that wasn’t possible, for the evening session. If they ran out of numbers for the day… well, tough luck.
While you don’t have to remain in queue the entire time (they give you a sheet with a QR code where you can check your status), it’s still pretty mind-boggling that you have to wait that long just for a seat. That’s why they have things like a popcorn machine and snacks at the waiting area to keep you entertained while you wait. Yep, you read that right – they give you food to eat while you’re waiting to eat food lol.
Now, I like good food as much as the next person – but the longest I’ve ever waited for a table was 40 minutes. No way I was going to waste three hours of my life for a bite, which is why I’ve never tried it no matter how many glowing reviews I read about it on the internet.
Recently, however, foot traffic has fallen in a lot of malls due to the pandemic – and I was finally able to try the Hai Di Lao at Sunway Velocity Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t even a line, so we breezed in and were served within 10 minutes! If you’re like me and hate queueing, but have always been curious about what makes this hotpot chain so popular, now is a good time to try it.
The restaurant is massive, airy and well ventilated. I think it can easily seat 200 people or more, but only half of the floor space was open for diners during our visit. It was pretty quiet too for a Saturday, and there were loads of empty tables.
Hai Di Lao is famed for its impeccable service, which starts from the moment you step through the door. Some places even offer complimentary manicures and massages!
We were led to our table, where H was given a hair band to tie up her long hair, and I was given lens wipes for my glasses. Each section has a few dedicated wait staff. Our server was friendly and helpful; she first asked if this was our first time, then proceeded to explain how to order food from the tablet menu.
Before anything else, you have to choose a soup base. Unlike conventional hotpot places which offer a maximum of two flavours, Hai Di Lao has a unique four-compartment pot which allows you to pick up to four different soups. You can, of course, go for the traditional one or two compartments, but take note that the larger the compartment, the pricier the soup is.
H and I were discussing on how best to save on the soup when the server recommended we get the four-compartment one, but pick two soups. “I can fill the other two with plain water.” she said. That way, each soup base would only cost us RM10. If you change your mind later, they can fill in the ’empty’ slots with a soup of your choice for RM8.
HDL’s signature is the malatang (a spicy, numbing chilli-based soup popular in the Szechuan region), but since I’m not a big fan, we opted for tomyum as well as the local exclusive, pepper with pork stomach.
Sauces are not complimentary; you’ll have to pay RM8 if you want them. There’s a good variety, though. Aside from the usual vinegar and soy sauce, they also offer unique sauces like mushroom, seafood, sesame, shacha (peanut and spices), oyster and more.
All items on the menu are available in half or full portions. Half portions are recommended for 2 people. We ordered pork belly, cheese tofu, bursting pork balls, octopus, cabbage and radish.
The main highlight at HDL is the soup, and the ones we ordered delivered. I especially liked the pepper pork stomach soup: it was chock full of ingredients, had just the right amount of peppery kick, and was creamy and flavourful. All of the items we ordered were fresh, although I think the pork belly could have been slightly thicker. The bursting pork balls were springy and juicy as well. We also ordered a plate of pork neck (not pictured), which I recommend if you like fatty cuts.
HDL has a wide variety of ingredients to choose from: aside from pork, you can also go for lamb, chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables. You will also find some unusual items like sea urchin, duck feet and liver, which are not conventional hotpot ingredients.
HDL offers complimentary fruits as dessert, but we decided to get another one from the menu: deep fried sesame cakes with melted brown sugar. They’re crispy on the outside, while the inside has a chewy texture similar to mochi.
Washed everything down with a refreshing bowl of aiyubing (jelly)!
Our total bill came up to RM157, or about RM78.50 per pax. It is rather pricey by hotpot standards, since you can get a buffet for around RM60 – but I enjoyed the food and the experience, and wouldn’t mind splurging on it once in awhile. Provided there’s no queue, that is.
HAI DI LAO (Sunway Velocity)
F3-16,Lingkaran SV, Jln Cheras, Maluri, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Open daily: 11AM – 9PM
Reservations: 03-9770 0070
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I almost didn’t get to try this place. Glad I did!
C and I were food hunting in Sri Petaling, and like the indecisive people we are, walked back and forth between several hotpot outlets (one was closed, another was too expensive, the other had a limited menu, etc.). After what must have been 40 minutes, we finally settled on MK Hotpot, a new resto that serves hotpot with a slight twist. The place is tucked on the first floor, so keep your eyes peeled for the sign outside the staircase.
Simple interior, but cosy. Tables are adequately spaced apart. Service is attentive and friendly.
You order by set, with each set comprising of a soup, a ‘main course’ and a side. There are six different kinds of soup bases, so there’s something for every palate – like Signature Golden Chicken, Herbs, Tomato and Pepper. I went for the Tonkotsu (pork bone soup), while C opted for the Taiwanese Spicy soup. For the choice of protein, there is chicken breast slices, pork belly or lean pork slices, Australian Beef / Lamb slices, seafood platter and vegetable platter. Last but not least, pick a side of different rice and noodle dishes.
There is a condiment and sauces station, where you can mix your own dipping sauce. You can find the typical fried shallots, garlic, sesame, peanuts, sesame oil, vinegar and soy sauce, as well as shacha ( a paste made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilli, brill fish and dried shrimp, popular in Hokkien communities ie Fujian in China, and Taiwan).
Each set comes with mushrooms, pumpkin, cabbage and lettuce, corn on the cob, wood-ear fungus, quail eggs, radish and tofu. Add them to the soup to get that naturally sweet flavour.
The unique thing about MK Hotpot is its ‘stone pot’ concept. Instead of a large vat to boil the soup, which is usually the case with other hotpot chains, you get a small stone pot each (which I think is more hygienic, coz you won’t have to cook your ingredients in the same pot). The pot also doubles as a shallow wok of sorts – the correct way to enjoy the food, according to our server, is to first stir-fry the ingredients with some oil, garlic and shallots. Once the food has released a nice fragrance and is slightly cooked, you then add the soup and let it boil.
We got some ala carte items – pork balls, octopi, enoki mushrooms, cheese tofu, and giant shrimp. They are currently running a promotion, whereby if you like their Facebook page, each shrimp set of 3 costs just RM9.90. Everything is fresh and tasty, and they aren’t stingy with portions either.
My tonkotsu soup base was the bomb – C and I ended up finishing almost all of the soup. It was savoury, rich and lipsmacking-ly good! Her Taiwanese Spicy wasn’t bad either, but I think it’s more suitable for those who like that Sichuan mala /chilli oil taste. We also ordered a tempura (it was translated to Tian Bu La and I was like what on earth) which C wasn’t impressed with but I secretly liked lol.
Our meal for two came up to about RM100, with drinks. We ordered some extras, but I think the price is still reasonable given the portions and taste. In fact, I’m headed back there again this weekend with another group of friends!
MK HOTPOT (SRI PETALING) – Non-halal
11-2 Jalan Radin Bagus 6, Bandar Baru Sri Petaling, Sri Petaling, 57000 Kuala Lumpur
It’s been raining a lot lately – and what better way to warm up than with a nice. bubbling hotpot dinner? Braving the downpour, we drove to Ho Kee Seafood Steamboat Restaurant in Bandar Puchong Jaya, on the recommendation of a friend of Moo’s. The place is pretty popular, judging from the Saturday night crowd. The ground level is air conditioned, but we didn’t want to wait so we opted for a table upstairs.
Pretty stuffy, but at least the windows were open.
Unlike many modern hotpot restos which use portable gas stoves / canisters, Ho Kee has old school stoves hooked up to gas cylinders; one at each table. The resto seemed quite understaffed during our visit, with only one or two staff attending to the entire floor. It took awhile (and several attempts calling the waiters over) before they brought the menu.
We ordered a set for three pax, which was more than enough for the four of us. It had the usual suspects: tofu pok, bean curd sheets, sui gao (pork dumplings), pork balls, fish balls and fish slices on a bed of vegetables. There was also yee mee, bihun and eggs.
Waiting for the soup to boil. You can choose to get the clear soup base, or the tomyum one at an additional cost.
Some extras that weren’t included in the set: squid and seafood cheese tofu. You can order other items ala carte.
PS: I do not recommend getting the squid. It costs RM13 per plate and they shrivel up after cooking. Was literally combing the bottom of the pot trying to look for the tiny pieces.
The ingredients were fresh. The seafood cheese tofu was my favourite, and the fish items like the fishballs were good too; had a nice bouncy bite to them. Soup base was decent – I think they taste pretty standard at most hotpot places.
A nice add-on to get is the fried chicken wings (RM2.90 per piece). Marinated well with a robust flavour, crispy skin and tender juicy insides.
I like century egg with porridge, so I ordered a plate. It was quite pricey at RM8 (you can get one for about RM2 at the market). They were served cold so it felt a little geli, but tasted way better after dunking them in the soup.
For those of you who have never tried century egg, they’re basically duck eggs that have been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quick lime and rice hulls for several weeks to months, until the egg develops a jelly-like consistency with a creamy black center. It has a strong flavour of ammonia, which those unused to it might find unpleasant. Been eating this since I was a kid though, and I love it – I guess it’s one of those love or hate things, like durian. lol
Our total bill with drinks (2 glasses of carrot milk, one pot of Chinese tea and a 100 Plus) came up to about RM120++.
The set is pretty value for money at RM20++ per pax, but it can rack up when you order side dishes. Service is slow; our drinks were sitting on the counter for the longest time – in the end we got up and got it ourselves. If you’re coming on a weekend, expect a wait.
HO KEE SEAFOOD STEAMBOAT RESTAURANT
01-01, Jalan Kenari 18b, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
I was going through some old posts from my Japan trip last year and realised that I missed out writing on this.
It was our last night in Tokyo, and as appreciation for our work filming from 3AM – 1PM lol (we were doing a story on the Toyosu Fish Market), our POC / guide Ken-san picked out a place for dinner. It turned out to be Saganobori in Ginza, which is very famous for their chanko nabe, aka sumo hotpot. Reservations are required, so we were really grateful to Ken-san for making all the arrangements – we just showed up for the food!
Sumo wrestling is a big sport and an age-old tradition in Japan. If you thought they are just fat dudes wrestling around in a ring, you are sorely mistaken. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into maintaining their physique, and sumo wrestlers adhere to a rigorous diet and training regime, and follow a strict set of rules.
One of the most recognisable dishes associated with sumo wrestling is chanko nabe, which literally translates to “a meal of hotpot”. There are no specific recipes, but typical ingredients include meat or fish/seafood, and vegetables. One thing they all have in common is the large serving, as chanko nabe is eaten as part of a weight gain diet.
Cute sumo-themed chopstick holders !
A couple of pickled appetisers to get things started. The fig with cream sauce (top right) was divine.
Japanese cuisine is always a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.
Tamagoyaki (Sweet omelette) with herbs – fluffy, bouncy and absolutely perfect.
Small fried shrimp – more snacks to keep us going while they prepared the hotpot.
It. Was. Massive.
It was the first time I had ever seen such a gigantic hotpot, and it was filled to the brim with beautiful slices of fatty pork belly, humongous squares of tofu, meatballs, mushrooms, vegetables and spring onions in a light dashi broth. This thing could feed a village. Needless to say, we had problems finishing it among the six of us and were basically lying sideways in our chairs by the end of the meal. It was quite wasted, so I don’t recommend getting this unless you’re travelling in a big group or you are a big eater with a bottomless pit for a stomach.
This was like the third bowl and I was already slowing down considerably lol. Of course, everything was fresh and tasty, especially the pork belly slices. The dashi got more and more flavourful as the night wore on, having soaked up the full flavours of the ingredients.
The meat and veggies in itself were already very filling – but of course Ken-san had to go and order noodles lol. I’m not sure what they are but they were a little chewy, like udon, but less thick.
Despite saying we were all full, we somehow found space in our stomach for ice cream (because everyone has a separate dessert stomach, no?). It was an interesting flavour – sea salt – hence the bluish tinge.
We actually sat around eating and drinking green tea (thankfully, I travelled with a group of non-alcoholics!) until closing time. It was actually autumn during our visit and the weather was just starting to get chilly – so it was nice to have something warm and hearty before bedtime.
If you’ve never had sumo hotpot, and are travelling with friends/family in Tokyo, I recommend trying it out at Saganobori. The shop can be a little hard to find because it’s tucked in a quiet side alley (I notice that this is a trend with many famous restos in Tokyo – they often look super unassuming / are hidden in some back alley or other), but with a little determination and a GPS, you’ll be rewarded with a giant bowl of hearty hotpot!
Address: 7-18-15, Ginza, Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture
Update 8/2/2021: This restaurant is permanently closed.
Puchong-ites seem to have a love affair with hotpots – just drop by Bandar Puteri Puchong or Bandar Puchong Jaya, and you will be spoilt for choice with the number of establishments serving the specialty. One of these places is Bone and Pot.
Even among hotpots, there are a variety of different styles, from Ma La (Sichuan) to Sukiyaki (Japanese). Bone & Pot touts itself as a Hong-Kong style hotpot, specialising in pork bone soup which is rich in collagen – good for the joints, bones and complexion!
S and I were early so the place was empty – they get quite busy during peak hours on weekends.
All-you-can-eat hotpot is the in-thing now, but we didn’t want to gorge ourselves – which is why we went to Bone & Pot, where you can order individual dishes. S and I are both meat eaters, so we only got the needle shrooms as our ‘greens’ (technically they’re not even vegetables, lol) + pork slices, bursting beef balls, shrimp and pork dumplings, cheese-stuffed tofu and pork stomach.
Everything was fresh and tasty, but the soup was awesome (though S said Genting’s Beauty and the Pot is better). Bone & Pot’s version was rich, milky and full of lip-smacking goodness, especially after it had absorbed the flavours of the ingredients. The meat on the large pork bone was so tender after having been cooked for so long, it literally flaked off.
Just dip the slices into the boiling broth for a couple of seconds and voila! Tender, juicy meat. Best with plain soy sauce and a bit of chilli for that spicy kick.
For snacks, I recommend the fried salt and pepper squid which was seriously crunchy and addictive; although it was more batter than actual squid.
Our bill for two came up to RM90, which was quite pricey considering that some hotpot buffets are cheaper, but the quality of the food was above average, especially the pork bone broth.
BONE & POT
No.47, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
It was a scorching hot day but that didn’t stop C and I from having hotpot for lunch at Two Pesos, a hotpot specialist restaurant in Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong. While the brand was founded by a Taiwanese couple, the story goes that they met and got married in Boracay, hence the resto’s Filipino-sounding name.
The resto’s interior is cheerful and decked out in bright orange, with a fuss-free design that resembles a canteen. The interior was air conditioned, so we could enjoy our food in comfort.
While most hotpot restos adopt an ‘all-you-can-eat’ concept, orders at Two Pesos are by set – which is good in a way because you won’t over-indulge. Their signature is the milky seafood pot, and they also offer hotpot/BBQ sets where the meat is grilled over a stone plate, which gives you that beautiful sear and flavour. There are plenty of different sets to choose from, such as Japanese Sukiyaki, Hua Diao Chicken, Basu Spicy Pot, Mongolian Herbs Pot, Supreme Tajine Seafood Hotpot, and more.
Felt like something salty and sour, so we went for the Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae) instead. For those not familiar with this dish, it’s a relatively ‘new’ invention created after the Korean war, when food was scarce and people used any surplus food they could get from US army bases, chucking them together to make a stew. Primary ingredients include ham, sausages and spam, mixed with Korean ingredients such as kimchi and gochujang (bean paste).
The version at Two Pesos had sausages and the usual hotpot items such as crab meat sticks, fish balls, tofu, beancurd sheets, enoki mushrooms, corn and vegetables like cabbage and carrots. Of course, you can’t run away from the kimchi and gochujang mix, which gives the soup it’s intense red colouring and spicy, sour taste, as well as chewy teokbokki (rice cakes). It was also topped with a block of instant noodles.
The set came with a choice of meat – either pork, Australian beef or fish. We went for the pork slices which were just the right thickness and fresh. Only had to cook it for awhile in the bubbling soup to achieve the perfect tenderness. Also included was a choice of carb – ie rice, instant noodles or yee mee (fried dried noodles).
Overall the flavour was pretty good, although I still prefer the one from Gangnam 88. For RM20.90 per set, the price was reasonable but I wished they had more ingredients instead of just a few pieces of fishballs/crabsticks, and less cabbage.
Ordered boneless fried chicken as a side. Again, portion was not very large and it costs RM8.90 – but the flavour was good with a crunchy exterior and moist insides.
16, Jalan Kenari 8, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
One of my favourite things to have is shabu-shabu and sukiyaki – so I was thrilled to try out Mo-Mo Paradise, a famous Japanese chain that specialises in the cuisine. Recently opened at J’s Gate Dining in Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur, this is the first Mo-Mo Paradise outlet in Malaysia, focusing on an all-you-can-eat concept with fresh, high quality ingredients.
The modern dining space features lots of wood finish for a cosy ambience. Spanning 2,485 sq ft, it seats up to 80 diners, and has a private dining room that fits 15, available for intimate gatherings and small functions.
Diners can choose from two types of soup bases.
The shabu-shabu, which is the original light broth that can be enjoyed with ponzu and gomadare (sesame) sauce, is specially formulated by Mo-Mo Paradise and directly imported from Japan. Those who prefer a sweet-salty, richer flavour can go for the sukiyaki, the traditional broth from Shoudo island. For the best of both worlds, go for a mixed course.
How to eat Shabu-Shabu the Japanese way
It’s pretty common in Chinese hotpot to just dump everything in the pot (like above) but the Japanese eat it by taking a piece of meat, swishing it around quickly and dipping it into raw egg before eating with a bit of sauce. The name ‘shabu-shabu’ actually translates to ‘swish swish’ in Japanese!
The resto offers a mouthwatering selection of different types of meat, such as locally sourced sakura pork, chicken, and air-flown beef from Australia. The meats are carefully sliced and kept under strictly controlled temperatures before serving.
I’ve been to my fair share of shabu-shabu places in Malaysia – and I have to say that Mo-Mo Paradise’s beef slices are among the most best ones I’ve ever seen. The thickness was just right (some places serve you paper thin sheets which practically fall apart) and there was a nice amount of lean and fat in each slice.
If you’re the type that MUST have carbs, the resto offers ramen and udon bowls as well.
The vegetable bar has over 20 types of vegetables, which are sourced locally.
Meals are priced from RM68++ for a single pot and RM76++ for a mixed pot, per pax. All meats and veggies are refillable within the 100-minute time limit. Non-alcoholic beverages such as sodas and coffee are refillable at RM4.50 whilst water and tea are free of charge.
This might seem pricey given its limited menu, but considering the setting /ambience and quality of the ingredients, it’s pretty reasonable.
MO-MO PARADISE (Non-Halal)
P1-10/11, Level 4, Lot 10 Shopping Center, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250, Kuala Lumpur