In the middle of a congested strip mall, anchored by a Gold’s Gym, the Great Wall supermarket, and Unique Thrift store, sits Uncle Liu's Hot Pot, a blandly decorated restaurant where hungry diners cook their dinner tableside. Hot pot—or Chinese fondue, as some call it—has been around for centuries. Yet, I’m unaware of any other restaurants in the Washington region that specialize in the experience—and it is an experience.
I had my first hot pot with Uncle Liu. It was not complicated or intimidating. Actually, it reminded me of college, when I had my first go at dim sum. There were lots of oohs and ahhs and umms. Hot pot goes like this: you order a big pot of broth, choosing a handful of flavors (spicy, mild, fish, and mushroom, among others); the broth heats up quickly on your tabletop propane burner. Then you order raw servings of your favorite veggies, meats, and seafood ingredients, to cook in the hot pot. Cooking time for each ingredient varies, but most are ready within two minutes. When each piece is done, you remove it, plop it in dipping sauce, and then pop it in your mouth. White or fried rice comes on the side. On a recent trip, Marcus and I ordered beef, shrimp, broccoli, cabbage, veggie dumplings, enoki mushrooms, and lotus root.