Header image courtesy of @suppahk (via Instagram)
In Hong Kong, the cooler months are synonymous with a few things: hawkers roasting chestnuts on the street, aunties clad in Uniqlo puffer jackets as soon as the mercury dips below 25 degrees Celsius, and—our favourite—hot pot (打邊爐; da1 bin1 lou4) dinners. Featuring a huge simmering pot of broth at the centre of the table, hot pot is as much a group activity as it is a meal, with diners ordering fresh produce, meat, and various dumplings, meatballs, and other accoutrements to poach in the soup.
Given the scale and interactive nature of hot pot, it is one of those things—like karaoke—that is almost always enjoyed with a group of loved ones. Whether you’re partial to spicy Sichuan “chicken pot,” a light broth swimming with Chiuchow fishballs, or a phở-inspired hot pot complete with oxtail, rice noodles, and lime, here are our recommendations on where to da bin lo this winter.
Established in 2006, Megan’s Kitchen has long been considered one of Hong Kong’s best and most creative hotpot specialists, with a coterie of celebrities and socialites included within their wide fanbase.
Happily, we can report that this da bin lo giant has maintained its quality 15 years on with top-notch produce and a regularly updated menu of innovative soup bases, dumplings, and meatballs, all of which is made in-house. While we will always have a place in our hearts for the signature tom yum goong-flavoured “cappuccino” broth (starting from $108) and fiery Sichuan tofu soup (starting from $88), the new phở-inspired Vietnamese superior beef broth (starting from $228) is an absolute delight.
The broth—which is simmered for 12 hours with oxtails and bones—is best enjoyed on its own with a squeeze of lime and a couple of chillies, before adding some hand-cut snowflake beef chuck and neck ($228) and Vietnamese rice noodles ($38). For the full Megan’s experience, throw in a few orders of their unique handmade dumplings and meatballs—if you don’t know where to start, the best-selling rainbow cuttlefish balls ($98), hand-beaten shrimp balls (starting from $68), beef and black truffle dumplings (starting from $88), and Peking duck dumplings (starting from $68) always do the trick.
Megan’s Kitchen, 5/F, Lucky Centre, 165–170 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2866 8305
While this Tai Hang hot pot spot may seem like it’s named after the word for disorder and confusion, its moniker actually refers to Chiuchow—or “Chaozhou”—people. Inspired by the fresh flavours of Chiuchow cuisine, Chaos offers lighter takes on hot pot, with bases like the humble yet delicious Chiuchow-style pig stomach and white pepper soup ($228) and Shantou beef and turnip soup ($98) among richer options like the satay soup ($188) and Chongqing spicy broth ($188).
Do as Chiuchow gaginang (自己人; “our people”) would by complementing your broth of choice with plenty of fresh seafood—live ocean prawns ($128), fresh clams ($78), and squid paste ($78)—along with some fish balls ($58) and freshly fried fish skin ($42).
Chaos Hotpot, 22 Wun Sha Street, Tai Hang | (+852) 2890 9308
Far above the bustling ramen-yas on Tang Lung Street, you’ll find this cult-favourite retro hot pot restaurant, which evokes the Hong Kong of yesteryear with its old-school tiled floor and walls, tear-off calendar, Made in Hong Kong vacuum flasks, pawnshop-style neon sign, and pistachio green fridge. In keeping with the restaurant’s nostalgic look, the food itself is also informed by Chinese tradition, with soups like the fish maw, fish stomach, and chicken broth and papaya, tomato, and fresh fish soup reminiscent of home cooking.
As for the additions that actually go into the soup itself, you can’t go wrong with the deep-fried bean curd puffs ($52), hand-cut local beef ($178), deep-fried fish skin and bones ($48), and nostalgic fruit peel fishballs ($36). If you enjoy the bouncy, “QQ” texture of meatballs, check out the Suppa trio of patties ($) featuring a minced cuttlefish patty with salted egg yolk, a dried shrimp patty, and a beef tendon patty with vegetables and oyster sauce.
Suppa, 2/F, 28 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay | (+852) 3520 4111
While drinking and hot pot go together like… well, dumplings and hot pot, this local restaurant brand takes things further by offering boozy “bombs” to complement its soup bases. The eponymous The Drunken Pot ($328) offers four different soups—tomato lobster bisque, beef brisket in clear broth, Sichuan-style numbingly spicy soup, and Chiuchow-style satay, at the centre of which is a hollowed-out whole papaya. Besides alcoholic “bombs” like black beer or sake ($25), you can also add numbingly spicy, cream, or coconut milk bombs ($18) to dial up—or mellow out—the flavour of your soup.
Of the additions, we like the typhoon shelter-style fish crackling and softshell crab ($68), Korean army pot fortune bag ($88), hanging premium sliced Angus beef short ribs (starting from $188), and black truffle, shrimp, and crabmeat dumplings (starting from $60).
While the typical hot pot format is to order uncooked ingredients to poach in the soup of your choice, another popular option is the Sichuan-style “spicy chicken pot,” which arrives at the table as a pot of mostly-cooked chicken in a thick, flavourful sauce. After heating the chicken until it’s cooked through and eating it as is, a hot, clear broth is poured into the pot and mixed with the sauce and ingredients to create a lighter soup, which you can then add other ingredients like vegetables, noodles, or fishballs into.
One of our favourite places to experience this popular dish is JKJ Pot, a cheery, no-frills hot pot restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui with laminate tables and cartoon characters adorning the walls. If you can’t rally a crew to join you, the chicken thigh pot (starting from $159) comes in individual portions, featuring flavourful chicken thighs covered in coriander. Of the additions, the homemade fried beancurd puffs ($59) and cuttlefish topped with crab roe ($35) are among our favourites, but there is something for everyone on the extensive menu.
JKJ Pot, G/F, 23 Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2470 2668
As one of the more popular hot pot bases around, satay is available in many hot pot restaurants—including most of this list!—but none of them do it as well as Fong Wing Kee. Even before the new MTR station opened, this old-school restaurant drew regular crowds to Kowloon City with its rich, deeply savoury satay soup. Create a DIY satay beef noodle soup by adding the hand-sliced beef ($298) and instant noodles ($15), and jazz the whole thing up with some fresh meat and seafood—we like the flower crab, local “black” pork ($78), and Canadian oysters ($158).
Fong Wing Kee (方榮記), 85–87 Hau Wong Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2382 1788
What do you get when you add hot pot and fondue together? Running Chicken, that’s what. This local chain’s signature golden cheesy chicken pot (starting from $178) may seem like a bit of an odd bird, but it strangely works, with bone-in chicken, melted cheese, minced onion, Chinese celery, and coriander all coming together to create a gooey, deeply satisfying dish.
After you’ve enjoyed the chicken, you have the choice of diluting the leftover sauce with either clear broth or a cheese soup—we won’t judge you if you choose the latter—in which you can poach sliced snowflake beef (starting from $158), assorted meatballs (starting from $48), and udon ($21). There’s plenty of seafood, vegetables, and—for the truly dairy-mad—molten cheese meatballs (starting from $24) and actual pieces of cheese ($12).