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Jan 14, 2004 07:09 PM

Chinese Hot Pot

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Looking for as authentic as possible Chinese hot pot ("Huo guo") restaurant in center city Philadelphia or nearby. Thanks.

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  1. Try Lee How Fook on 11th Street between Race and Vine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robin M

      I second Lee How Fook, also try the restaurant below the Chinese Benevelent Society between 9th and 10th on Race.

      LHF's chicken hot pot with mushrooms, ginger, cabbage and celantro is my favorite dish anywhere. The entire pot is placde in the oven and the flavors meld into a stewy masterpiece. Topped with a healthy portion of celantro and white rice, and under $9.00. Can not go wrong with many others offered.

      1. re: eric

        I'll also suggest Lee How Fook's. If you want authentic, they have many hot pots that are not on the English menu.

        1. re: NerdyDave
          Phantom Violist

          Thanks for Lee How Fook recommendation. I will try it next time.
          I stumbled onto a sensational, quite authentic hotpot at Four Rivers. It is "off the menu." We ate at 2:30 this afternoon--they warned us that they couldn't do it during peak meal times. Like in Beijing, it came with a two-part pot, one half with mild broth, the other with fiery Szechuan/prickly ash and red pepper broth. One cooks the various ingredients in the broth--and what ingredients! Three platters full of 1) meats (choice of thin sliced mutton, pork, chicken and beef, or combination thereof), 2)greens, tofu and bean thread noodles 3) seafood-2 blueclaw crabs, clams, shrimp and squid. Ginger/sesame seed oil and scallion sauce for garnish. We ate for it seemed an hour, and still took home leftovers. For one who gets nostalgic for real hotpot when Chinese New Year rolls around, this did the trick. Four Rivers is at 936 Race St. 215-629-8385. Ask for Joey--she seems to run the place.

          1. re: Phantom Violist

            That sounds very different from LHF and many others I have tried, which were very tasty nonetheless.

            We will definitey check that out.

            How lucky we are to have so many excellent restaurants in Chinatown.


            1. re: richard

              We do our own version of hot pot at home, using a rice cooker to boil water (not broth) on the table. We throw small amounts of raw veggies (mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas, chinese cabbage), seafood (lobster, shrimp, scallops, fish), sometimes meat (thin strips of beef or pork) and sliced rice cake into the boiling water for a minute or 2 and then dip into a sauce made from raw egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine, lots of raw garlic, lots of shallots, hot sauce, crushed red pepper and cilantro, well mixed together. My sister's Chinese boyfriend tought us this variation. Since the food is cooked in water, it takes on the intense flavor of the sauce. It is flat out the best meal. Our more adventurous friends have tried it and loved it.

            2. re: Phantom Violist

              Mutton? The prospect of that makes me very happy. What do I ask for, exactly (I'd rather not have to describe all the details and hope I get the right thing...)?

      2. Phantom Violist, can you tell us how much this Beijing style hotpot at Four Rivers cost?

        I ask because it sounds like a huge dish, and I'm usually in Chinatown during the day when I'm doing errands by myself. My former student dentist at Penn, who was here studying from China, always spoke highly of Four Rivers and told me it was the most authentic food Chinese food in Philly. But I always walked past without stopping in, since her recommendation was for whole fish, which isn't really a dish for one, and just isn't the same reheated.

        Were you offered "off menu" options, or did you ask? I'm curious, do you speak Chinese? At some restaurants it's easier than at others to be taken seriously, or to understand the "off menu" options if you don't speak the language. Do you have other favorite dishes there as well, especially "off menu"?

        Many Thanks.

        1. I just got off the phone with Four Rivers they don't do hot pot on the weekends :(
          Im going to be in town this weekend 2/23 2/25.will keep looking

          1. Lee How Fook is primarily Cantonese; Four Rivers is Sichuan. I've never had hot pot at either (not a big hot pot fan) but don't expect them to be similar. People from different regions of China tend to have different ideas about what's the best food, obviously. I've had that mild/spicy hot pot mentioned above, but at Chung King Garden. They put some Chinese herbs in there that I don't know the names of.

            As far as off menu and ordering in Chinese, sometimes it takes me a while longer to be taken seriously at some Chinese restaurants if I'm there without a native speaker. But in my experience, at any worthwhile restaurant you can get in their good graces by asking questions about specific dishes and telling them how you like the food. If you think there are off-menu specialties, just ask. I've been treated very well at a Puerto Rican restaurant I kept going back to, even though I don't speak Spanish.

            1. Does anyone mind talking some about hot pot for the novice? I don't know jack about hot pot. I'm a regular at LHF. After many years of eating everything else, we finally had hot pot there once or twice, but I felt like I was groping in the darkness. Thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mawrter

                I think folks are referring to 2 different things here. The hotpots at LHF is claypot cooking, which is prepared in the kitchen and finished off in the oven. There is no cooking by the diner. They can be one dish meal, e.g. chicken-sausage-rice or they can be dishes to accompany a meal, e.g. pa-chien tofu or mutton-beancurd sticks or seafood w/ bean thread noodles. The idea is that the claypot seals in the juices of whatever is cooking. My recommendation for a place to try out these kind of hotpots is Bao Bao Rao on Washington bwtn 11th and 12th. The number of hotpots listed on their menu shrunk when they moved from Chinatown but you could try Dib's technique...
                The other kind of hotpot is also called steamboat cooking (or lao in Vietnamese). These are cook at the table affairs with raw meats/veg/noodles. These are infrequently listed on menus, so you might want to inquire specifically. I've seen it at Bao Bao Rao (ordered verbally by a Vietnamese party) and apparently Four Rivers have that available as well. Hope this clarifies hotpot for you.