Hot Pot

Tucked away down a San José back ally is a literal hole-in-the-wall joint in serving up something delicious. This is a perfect example why you should never judge a restaurant’s food by its atmosphere.

We were brought here with friends, one of whom had been before. Had she not I think we all would have turned around and left. It looked dirty, there were toys everywhere, and it was just downright scary. We’re the only ones here and we all look around while our host orders.

We are at Soda Hong Kong in downtown San José celebrating a fellow poker player’s birthday. Their specialty? Chinese Hot Pot.

Chinese Hot Pot, or Foo-Woo, is a traditional cooking method of boiling meats, seafood, or vegetables in a flavored broth. We sat at a table with a single gas burner crudely fit into the center. Your menu is in Chinese and Spanish and you choose your items much like on a sushi menu. Your chosen a broth and it is brought to you, she turns the burner on, and it begins to boil. The aroma is amazing.

Next comes the sauces. This might have been my favorite part; I love anything interactive and customizable, especially with food. The waitress brings you fish and soy sauce, sesame oil, and shredded ginger and scallions which you mix into your bowl as you please.

We picked both a spicy and non-spicy broth and an array of items to boil: beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp wontons, tofu, mushrooms, a starchy vegetable much like a potato, fried fish, sliced beef, and rice noodles. It comes out quick. The waitress pulled up another table and proceeded to fill it with our order.

The cooking process is really exciting, though it was daunting at first. You put all of one item in then when it floats it’s cooked! You’re given a slotted spoon, much like a basket, that you use to scoop out the goods into your sauce bowl. Eat, enjoy, repeat. Some of the cooking liquid makes it’s way into the sauce bowl adding to the flavor.

I’m addicted. I only tried the spicy broth but it was amazing. I was craving a dumpling-style meal and this more than fulfilled that request. The environment is hilarious but the food is traditional and phenomenal. Spicy, perfectly seasoned broth with combined with the sauce you make to suit your own tastes… So. Good. I need more.

I can’t give you a website or even an address because I doubt they even have a computer let alone a website and I have no idea where it is. The best part: Nick and I, including beer, ate for $24 total. It is a perfect place for groups, but be sure to order at least 1 item (ex. 1 order of shrimp wantons) per person so everyone gets enough to eat.

I had wontons dancing in my head all night afterward.

-Jes

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