Mongolian Hot Pot

Posted By | Posted On Apr 04, 2011

Its 1245 A.D., Kublai Khan and his pals have just set up camp (being Mongolian nomads and all). As the fire begins to subside, the men turn their eyes to a fragrant mutton broth bubbling merrily away along the fire’s edge. Using their swords and shields, they slowly transfer chunks of mutton into the simmering stock. The Mongolian Hot Pot is born.

Fast forward to 2011 A.D. Liang and her pals are gathered snugly in a booth at the Q restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown. Soft rock plays quietly in the background. The group is just digging in to a “Ma La Huo Guo”, or “Numbing and Spicy Hot Pot”. A “Yin Yang” (partitioned) portable electric pot with a fiery Sichuan-style broth in one half, and a mild, fragrant herbal broth in the other, serves as the cooking medium for paper thin slices of lamb, beef, or seafood. A large platter of various Chinese vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and watercress, tofu, mushrooms and vermicelli noodles made from mung bean flour are added to the simmering stock according to  each diner’s whim. Bowls and saucers of delicious condiments provide the finishing individual touch. Clinking beer bottles all around complete the festive atmosphere. The Mongolian Hot Pot has come a long way.

Whatever its origin, many regional variations exist. Northern China, Taiwan and Hong Kong all have their own style. But the one that packs the biggest punch is the style from western China, known as the Ma La Huo Guo. Definitely not for the faint of heart, the chili-laden broth is thought to expel the creeping dampness of the western Chinese winter. But the Sichuanese are unique among the Chinese for enjoying hot pot year-round. During the hot, humid summer months, this combination of Sichuan Pepper and fiery red chilies has a cooling effect on the body, by encouraging perspiration.

Kublai Khan’s go-to dinner is now enjoyed all over Asia. The Japanese Shabu Shabu, the Korean Chongol, the Thai Suki and the Vietnamese Lau Thai all provide unique interpretations of the Mongolian Hot Pot.

To try one yourself, head on over to The Q, located on the corner of Washington and Beach Streets in Chinatown. The Q is open daily for both lunch and dinner. For the ultimate Hot Pot experience go with a group of 6-8 people, order two separate broths, (the black bone chicken and kim chi broths are excellent as well), choose your proteins, raise your glass and say a toast to Kublai Khan.



660 Washington Street, Boston  (857)-350 –3968

Open daily 11:30 am-1am

written by Jim Becker, Chinatown guide

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