Winter time is the best time for Chinese hot pot. One of our favourite past-times is eating dinner with friends over a bubbling cauldron of hot soup through a cloud of vapour. Tonight's hot pot adventure is in Eastwood at YX mini hot pot whose decor transports us straight to China.
"Why are going to Eastwood when there's a branch of this hot pot place in Haymarket?" asks Mr NQN. It's a fair enough question and I don't think my explanation of "Wait til you see it" is enough to convince him. But there we were on our way to Eastwood with our favourite hot potters Ivy and Ryan.
YX stands for Yuxiang, the name of a Chinese seasoning marinade for meat and YX Mini Hot pot in Eastwood is in a standalone building. If you're lucky you'll get one of the car spots in the restaurant's car park. The decor reminds us of China and it's a large restaurant on two levels with a ceiling painted with cranes flying in the sky that looks at some angles like an open roof.
Each table is allocated a total of 2 hours here and we received a text the day before letting us know about this and also the fact that they only hold tables for 10 minutes. We are shown to a booth upstairs, past the private rooms with their own special menus detailing live seafood. We slide into our wooden booth where there's a tablet to place your order although we need a little help at the beginning choosing a soup base.
There are a dozen single soup bases and there are also a dozen double flavour combo soups that are slightly larger. We choose 3 double flavours for maximum sampling as well as the milky cheese soup that can't be ordered as a double flavour. Then we go through the menu sections, tapping on the things that take our fancy. Ryan likes sliced beef, I like sliced tongue and we all love balls and vegetables. It isn't the largest selection of items and there is also a selection of "gourmet" items like duck blood jelly, duck flippers, duck tongue, porcine brains and beef artery.
Ivy and Ryan go for cold Tsingtaos while Mr NQN and I go for the iced drinks that comes from a neighbouring store but are delivered here. The mixed berry crush is utterly delicious, tasting of fresh strawberries, not overly sweet but with a hint of saltiness in the creamy cheesecake fluff on top. It's so good that Ivy and Ryan are intrigued and order one too and are also smitten.
While we are busy at the sauce station they bring out our soup bowls and our food and place them on the induction cooktops. The sauce station is good although not as comprehensive as others but the seafood chilli sauce is my favourite and I end up dipping pretty much everything in that. "Do you want bibs?" they ask. "Sure!" we answer.
I start on the green peppercorn and oxtail tomato broths. The oxtail tomato is really strong in tomato with chunks of oxtail in it but the predominant flavour is fresh tomato. I love the green peppercorn with its gutsy spiciness. It really penetrates deep into the dipping morsels.
The dumplings take the longest at ten minutes to cook so I pop one in and wait for it to float to the top. They explain that these and the beef balls take 10 minutes while vegetables take the shortest time along with the thin slices of beef and pork.
Then we go with the easiest to cook-the beef slices that cook in around 30 seconds or so. These are satisfying as they're so quick to cook and absorb the flavours well.
We've recently introduced Ivy and Ryan to the wonders of ox tongue. We all end up preferring this to the Angus beef as it melts in the mouth.
It's time to switch our bowls which is easily done using the handles of the pots. I switch with Mr NQN and try the seafood and mushroom broths. The seafood is full of crab and is strong in seafood flavour but perhaps lacks a bit of nuance. The mushroom flavoured broth is full of long, sinewy rehydrated mushrooms with a meat broth as well.
One of my favourites is the unglamorously monikered "hand made prawn mash". It's blended up prawn meat shaped onto metal spoons. You place the whole spoon in the pot hooking it onto the edge. It is ready when the meat slides off the spoon easily. The prawn meat is bouncy in texture and tasty. I also dunk a cube of the fish tofu in it. These are nice and springy with a seafood flavour to them more than tofu. What was an unexpected favourite is the hand made beef meatballs that are very soft and tender. I don't know if any of us cooked them for 10 minutes though but they did seem cooked inside!
We were going to go for the mushroom basket but realised that they may have been too much food so we decide to try the bamboo mushrooms, like light puffy mushrooms that soak up sauces and soups perfectly. They're similar in texture to a morel mushroom but be careful as it acts like a sponge and you can spill soup on yourself bringing it to your mouth.
We swap soup bowls again. This time I'm trying the intriguing milky cheese. We wondered if it was like a fondue but it's more milky than anything else with a little cheese flavour to it. And despite it seeming a bit out of place among the rest it finds favour with Ivy and Mr NQN who both really like it. It's actually perfect just after the spicy chilli soup.
It may sound odd but the vegetables are one of my favourite parts of a hot pot but then again I grew up eating my mother's sauteed lettuce with pork. The vegetable basket is colourful and has leaves, lettuces, cabbage, tomato, pumpkin slices and cauliflower. I keep going back to the greens and cabbage that are terrific dunked into the spicy seafood sauce.
Another favourite item are the stick rice cakes. These cook quickly and have an appealingly chewy texture to them.
Ok I have a weakness for shallot pancakes and we had to order one. It comes cut up into quarters and is crisp and buttery and especially good dipped in the seafood chilli sauce.
I love noodles with hot pot but I prefer thicker wheat based noodles as these thin ones are a bit hard to pick up and you end up losing a lot of them in the bottom of the steaming pot. Next time I think I'd order the udon noodles.
I saved the hottest soup until last. I try the abalone chicken first. It's a classic with plenty of bone in chicken pieces. I don't really taste the abalone but there are is an abalone piece in it. The super spicy broth has that numbing mala effect from Szechuan peppercorns and is a bit too much for Ryan who doesn't like that effect.
It's time for desserts and there are three or four on the menu. We try the plain rice cakes, that resemble mozzarella or polenta chips. There are two versions and these plain rice cakes have a slight chewiness. They're sprinkled with soybean powder and kuromitsu syrup.
But everyone prefers the black rice cake that have a bit more texture and flavour to them. And by the time Mr NQN eats the last one (he loves dessert) our two hours are up!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you enjoy hot pot? Do you have a favourite hot pot dish? And would you travel further to try a branch that is more unique or would you stay close to home?
Yuxiang Mini Hot Pot Eastwood
Shop 1b/14 Glen St, Eastwood NSW 2122
Phone: (02) 9858 3399
Monday to Friday 12:00 pm - 2:30 pm, 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm