Los Angeles has its fair share of hot pot eateries. The San Gabriel Valley is home to the bulk of them, but there are quite a few in the city of Los Angeles.
Hot pot is akin to fondue: ingredients are placed in a boiling pot served tableside. The pots are commonly brought out for special occasions and served family-style, but a lot of restaurants have modified them so each person gets their own individual pot.
Hot pot originated in Mongolia and made its appearance in China in the early Qing Dynasty. It's a beloved dish throughout Asia and beyond. In fact, Henry Kissinger, in his memoirs, wrote about his experience of eating hot pot with former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
Here's a guide on the different types of hot pot in Los Angeles:
Mongolian: Little Sheep Hot Pot
Mongolian hot pot distinguishes itself with a heavy use of lamb and spices. Little Sheep, with hundreds of locations across the world, is the most famous of Mongolian hot pot joints. They have nine locations in California and have one of the most diverse selections of ingredients in the area. You choose your hot pot base, your cut of meat, and then pick your add-ons. We recommend the lamb shoulder, which is imported from New Zealand and sliced paper thin. 2575 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance, CA 90505.
Taiwanese: Boiling Point
Boiling Point is a Taiwanese hot pot specialist. Each customer gets their own mini-pot, with the ingredients already cooked inside. Opened in 2004, it has become so popular that it now has 12 locations around North America including storefronts in Seattle and Canada. The hot pot base, which the company obtained a patent for in 2013, is custom-designed so that the flame isn't easily exposed. Boiling Point's success lies in the simplicity of its choices. They have ten different flavors. Beef, Korean kimchi, curry fishball, and tomato veggie are among some of the more conservative options. If you're into stinky tofu, their "House Special" has plenty of that plus pork intestines, pork blood cubes, quail egg, fish balls, and Napa cabbage. 250 W Valley Blvd.,
Ste J, San Gabriel, CA 91776.
Chinese (Sichuan): Fat Bull Cafe
Fat Bull Cafe's main draw is the All-You-Can-Eat option that's priced at $19.99 per person. The pots here are family-style, so it's in your best interest to bring a couple of friends. The management hails from Sichuan, the land of tongue-numbing, spicy cuisine. If you can handle the heat, pick the spicy mala pot as your soup base. Mala directly translates to "tongue-numbing" in Chinese. If you're indecisive, they have a yin-yang option that will allow you to have two soup bases in one pot. 120 N San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, CA 91775.
Japanese: Paper Pot Shabu
Japanese hot pot places are abundant throughout Los Angeles, but Paper Pot's rendition will have you thinking the owners are putting on some sort of magic trick. The soup is cooked in a pot made entirely out of paper. Called "washi" in Japanese, the paper has been chemically coated to become durable against heat and water. Prime cuts of meat are available and assortments of vegetables and noodles are complimentary with each order. Each patron gets their own individual pot. 20657 Golden Springs Dr., Ste 206, Diamond Bar, CA 91789.
Vietnamese: Ha Tien Quan
While Ha Tien Quan has four different variations of hot pot on their menu, the main draw here is the Vietnamese anchovy-flavored broth. It has a strong, fermented odor and comes with a heaping of raw seafood and eggplant piled on the rim of the pot. Plenty of vegetables are available and the price ranges from $25 to $40, depending on the size of your party. 529 East Valley Boulevard, Suite 178B., San Gabriel, CA 91776.
Korean: Gamja Gol
Gamja Gol serves up the Korean version of hot pot, which has a thicker stew consistency than the versions above. It's called gamja jungol and is defined by its pork bone base and a large potato on the bottom. Jungol is the Korean word for hot pot. Vegetables are put in once the dish arrives and the broth sports a dark, red hue that comes from its chili-based sauce. 3003 W Olympic Blvd #107, Los Angeles, CA 90006.