There is something wonderful about hot pot. Besides embodying a laissez faire (you eat what you like, when you like) and abundant (a typical hot pot virtually demands that the table overflows with all manner of good things, from meat to seafood, leafy greens to beancurd and noodles, like a culinary horn of plenty) approach to dining, hot pot is also one meal you really should eat only with people you care for, love and trust. Besides taking into account the communal cauldrons, it is one of the most social dining formats ever to have existed.
Its history dates back to ancient China, but it was during the Qing Dynasty that hot pot really became the food of, if not the gods, at least the sons of heaven. The Qianlong Emperor, one of China’s most successful rulers who elevated the country to become the wealthiest and most populous nation in the world during his 60-year reign (1736 to 1795), was said to have eaten hot pot almost every day.
The concept is simple, really. Prep what you need beforehand: the slicing of meats, the making of dumplings, assorted meatballs and pastes and the all-important soup stocks. After that, all you need to do is ready platters piled high with fresh eggs (hen, quail), all sorts of noodles and fresh vegetables. Assemble your loved ones, bring the soup to a boil, pick whatever you would like to eat, dunk it into the cauldron until it is done, then eat. That is all there is to it.
Those who prefer to adopt the more indolent concept of dolce far niente, however, should take the easy way out and make a reservation post-haste at one of the many hot pot restaurants that have suddenly mushroomed all over the Klang Valley. From famous mainland Chinese chains that have made landfall in the city to regional-style restaurants that offer everything from Thai suki to Japanese shabu-shabu, finding a spot you like is easy: It all boils down (pardon the pun) to personal preference and, perhaps, geography.
One of the latest fire pot places (a literal translation from the Chinese huo guo) is Her Ping at Mont’Kiara Meridin, Kuala Lumpur. Opened on Dec 16, it has a sleek glass façade that encloses two levels. Certainly, it does not resemble a typical hot pot restaurant at first. A stunning sculpture by Giuseppe Tirelli acquired from Positano, Italy, christened Peter Pan, occupies a strategic vantage point at the top of the staircase. The furniture comprises armless loveseats or traditional chairs, all done up in cool jade with gilded feet, and the tables are marble-topped. More importantly, everything is well spaced out here, with room for about 48 spread out over two floors, including a private room for 10 but only for individual hot pot options.
At press time, a few tables were being readied for al fresco seating too. If you dine indoors, worry not. The ventilation system is good while those who need further reassurance in this Covid-ravaged era can take comfort in the rather large but noiseless Bactakleen fumigation device at the entrance, whose ultra-fine mist comprises hundreds of millions of nano-sized cleaning particles.
But lest you think Her Ping, which means “peace”, is all style and no substance, let us share what we have learnt about its dedication to the pursuit of the perfect hot pot. There are no less than six soup bases on offer, all made with input from a top Hong Kong chef: collagen pork bone, taro spare rib, nourishing herbal chicken, nourishing spicy, tomato and vegetarian-friendly vegetable. First, pick from a single, twin or quart pot serving (prices range from RM10 for a quarter pot of vegetable soup to RM48 for a single pot of taro spare rib or spicy nourishing soup).
Even the condiment trolley is chock-full of everything you would need to tailor-make the dipping sauce of your dreams. There are soy, chilli and sesame oils, vinegar, sambal, chopped scallions and coriander. For those accustomed to Taiwanese-style hot pot, Shacha sauce is also provided. The sauce might have Fujian-Teochew roots, but well-informed foodies know it is actually inspired by the satay sauce of the Malay Archipelago; besides, beef hot pot without Shacha is often considered incomplete or even imperfect.
Her Ping’s owner is also a stickler for freshness and quality. The vegetables are all organic, supplied by Zenxin Organic Food, whose produce is certified by the Australian National Association for Sustainable Agriculture. The luncheon meat (RM22 for a full portion) and century eggs (RM12 per portion) come from iconic suppliers in Hong Kong. Even the eggs (RM1.70 each) are by OnZen, whose hens are fed with antioxidant-enriched Astaxanthin sourced from Japan, making for a healthier, premium choice.
When eating hot pot, the only rule that applies is to have a bit of everything. A full portion of the US marbled beef slices (RM108) is a must as is the rosé wine kampung chicken (RM16 for half/RM32 for full). Spanish Iberico pork slices (RM34/RM68) are also a good idea but, if you like your offal, do not miss out on the pig’s kidney (RM6/RM12), which is prepared over three days for optimum lusciousness. If you are feeling celebratory, the abalone (RM50/RM99), live crab (RM69 each) and scallops on the half shell (RM32 each) guarantee a touch of opulence to the spread but, honestly, even the usual humble seafood balls and pastes, all of which are made fresh daily, are enough to ensure a slap-up feast.
Hot pot is meant to be savoured slowly and in a leisurely manner, with conversation flowing freely and copious imbibing in between. There is a selection of tea and beer available but, better yet, Her Ping, to its great credit, does not impose a corkage fee. So, feel free to bring along as many bottles of chilled saké or champagne, all of which will definitely match your meal here.
Her Ping Hotpot (Non-Halal), G-7 Mont’Kiara Meridin, 19 Jalan Duta Kiara, Mont’Kiara, KL. Tues-Sun, 3-10pm. 03 6211 1772.
This article first appeared on Mar 22, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.