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Apr 28, 2007 10:49 AM

How Do You Hotpot at Little Pepper?

First, let say that The Flushing Queens Chowhounds deserve a 21-gun salute; they are really on top of new and interesting places to try and eat. I grew up taking the Q-16 to Flushing and have seen it gradually change into the diverse growth area it is now. I applaud the changes.

Thanks to them, we've (my very brave wife and I) have been to the food malls on Main and tried some of the dishes translated from the Chinese poster/menues....Actually had to keep a can of cold coke to my bald forehead while eating the spicy tofu and Dan Dan noodles but they were great.

And then we went to Little Pepper last Sat. nite. We played it safe ( We had another couple with us) and had dishes rec'd by other hounds on earlier posts.

Cuc in mashed garlic sauce
Dried sauteed string bean
Soft Bean curd with spicy minced pork (esp. loved this)
Crust of cooked rice with pork
Dumplings with spicy sauceDan Dan noodles
Spicy Lamb with cumin

We loved everything and will go back BUT BUT I need help with the Hot Pot.

Every table but ours had ordered it ( and every table was taken ).My questions are :

First, What are the liquids in each of the two chambers? I'd guess one had chicken broth but the other, much darker in color, was a mystery.

Second, How do you determine what ingredients go in which chamber?

Third,( I guess I might be a little out of order here), but how do you order from the clip board with the list of ingredients when your Chinese is almost non-existant? (and to think that I took three years of Mandarin in college 30 years ago)

So there it, is I want to try this dish and am stymied.

Any help will be truly appreciated. Toby

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  1. Haven't been to Little Pepper, but there are typically two broths available in that sort of place, one mild, one spicy. Some people get one or the other, some get both in a divided bowl, which is convenient and practical.

    You put whatever ingredients you want in either broth until they're cooked to your liking; nothing "belongs" in one or the other, really. Typically you'll get a mix of thinly-sliced meats (lamb, beef, chicken), raw seafood (whole shrimp, clams, scallops, squid, etc.), vegetables and herbs, fish balls, rice cakes and maybe some noodles. As the meal progresses the broth gets flavored by all of it and gets pretty darned tasty after a while, so don't eat too much of the broth too early on.

    Unless you have diertary restrictions, ask for them to bring you a little of everything. It's generally going to be a fixed price per person. It's a lot less complicated than it might have looked.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hatless

      All the responses you've gotten so far are great and spot on about "how to hotpot" but if you've never hotpotted before I think you should try it out at a smaller, more casual place may not like it and then you'd get stuck with a big pot of boiling broth that may turn you off forever. I've taken friends who love all types of Asian food but the hotpot thing was just not their cup of tea.

      Minni's Shabu Shabu (136-17 38th Ave) is a good place to try for novices because they simplify the menu (in English), you pick the meat combo & every order comes with a plate of veggies that includes fishcakes, noodles and the most fun part, there is the condiment bar in the middle of the resto that lets you try all different combo of sauces.
      If you don't like it, no big deal it's only $10pp if you do like it, Little Pepper here you come!

      1. re: moymoy

        "but if you've never hotpotted before I think you should try it out at a smaller, more casual place first..."

        It's hard to get smaller and more casual than Little Pepper.

        1. re: el jefe

          Well, Minni's Shabu Shabu is more casual than Little Pepper. It has a fast food type setup and they speak English, which is one of the obstacles in the way of ordering hotpot at Little Pepper for non-Chinese speaking folks.

    2. like hatless said, you go in and choose a broth, then u get a menu with different combinations of meat/fish/vege ..theres usually like 15-20 diff combonations all priced accordingly. all have some sort of veg and meat/fish and everytime i find myself there a raw whole egg also. the key to the taste is the condiment goto the condiment bar and pick and choose sauced and other condiments to flavor your soup. when u order its just raw foods and 2 diff need to spice and flavor it up. also like hatless said, let your soup some veggies and protiens but let the soup sit for the most part, it gets really good.


      1. I was going to translate the hot pot menu and post it here, but there was one thing about out hot pot / huo guo experience at Little Pepper / Xiao La Jiao, that made me hesitate.

        The waitress we had pushed more expensive items on us in an annoying manner. If their service is this shoddy, do they deserve to have someone take the time to translate their menu.

        We could fend her off, but would those not that familiar with Sichuan food end up ordering expensive but not that great items. On the other hand, perhaps her English is not good enough to pull this off in English.

        Since you do not read Chinese and you want to try the hot pot/ huo guo, just ask the waitress for, say, seven typical items to start -- three vegetable, one meat and one tofu. (If you want more, you can always order more.)

        Ask to have both broths -- red (hot) and white (mild).

        If enough people go their wanting hot pot who cannot read the menu, they will make English menus.

        2 Replies
        1. re: eade

          i just also wanted to reiterate that there's no specific item that goes in either the mild or the spicy broths. i usually stick with basic thin sliced beef and the assorted vegetables when i hot pot. i actually do not like the spicy broth - i think it's too inconsistent whenever i try it at various places. sometimes it's too salty, too bland, too bleh. i stick with the more clear broth and then make a medley of sauces on the side.

          this leads to a question i've been meaning to ask - what do people create as the side sauces to use with hot pot?

          i like to create this one: soy sauce (most), sesame oil (about 1/2 - 3/4 of soy sauce amount), garlic (as much as you can tolerate), hot pepper concoction, and chopped scallions.

          i also like the peanut sauce with as much chinese parsley as i can cram into the small bowl.

          any other suggestions? thanks!!

          1. re: Linda

            I've always added a raw egg in my sauce, on top of all the ingredients mentioned above. There may be health hazards, but I've always believed the steaming hot food from the pot would take care of any germs. Oh, and don't forget copious amounts of cilantro and sa cha sauce (Chinese bbq sauce).

            Sometimes you can order rice noodles as well. After the meat and veggies are eaten, throw the noodles into the pot and let it cook in the now heavily flavored broth. Then scoop out both the broth and noodles and pour on top of the leftover sauce in your bowl. That's my favorite part of a hot pot mel.

        2. I've been to Little Pepper quite a bit but always have language problems except the few times I have taken friends who speak Chinese. Ordering the hot pot has been a disaster upon sveral occasions and I don't order it at LP any more. I just stick to the stuff on the English menu.

          If you want to try great hot pot at a place that is helpful and they speak English try Little Lamb Happy Family on Main near Northern. They have top quality ingredients with a better selection than Little Pepper, much more and better seating, and are much easier to deal with. They also have a nice selection of bottles of chilled Chiew (they have a display behind the front counter) and other Chinese spirits to toss back with your meal.

          1. I asked the other diners with a hotpot what they recommend. It's also easy to see what they have and point to whatever looks to your liking. The key is to not be shy. Once, someone who was bilingual actually took the time to verbally translate every item on the hotpot list for me. If this doesn't work well for you, my other approach is to resign myself to not knowing what I am ordering and blindly pick some stuff on the menu (at least the prices are in English). I usually assume that Chinese restaurants group menu items in categories, so I try to pick one item from different categories.

            As to the broths at Little Pepper, I find the white one to be kind of boring (though you should get it with the red one for the balance). The red one is loaded with Sichuan peppercorns and lots of oil in authentic fashion. While good, it can really be too much. I was high for several hours after drinking several bowlfuls of the red broth.

            I prefer the hotpot at teh aforementioned Little Lamb on Main St. I get the mixed pot with white and red broths. I find their broths to be much more complex than Little Peppers and the ingredients are better. There are lots of Chinese herbs in the broths. The red broth here is not Sichuan, so no Sichuan peppercorns. But it is spicy, and not oily. The white broth also holds its own, unlike the one at Little Pepper.

            To eade: I think you'd do us a great service by translating the hotpot menu. Once, the waitress recommended the pricier item, crabs. While a bit reluctant, I went for it. It was the best item I had and worth the cost.