Conveyor belts with all you can eat sushi are popular worldwide. But it’s done a little differently in China. The Hot Pot Store is a restaurant where you can eat as much as you want for just 39 RMB ($6). The conveyor belt is set up so that people can sit on either side and everyone has a small hot plate in front of them.
When you are seated you choose your preferred broth: it can be spicy, meaty or a veggie-flavored. They don’t always have an English menu but it’s easy to at least figure out if it is “la” (spicy) or “bu la” (not spicy). While the pot simmers, you can go to the ready-to-eat area and fill your plate with fruit, ice cream and plenty of mysterious but yummy finger food.
The conveyor belt is loaded with tofu, raw veggies, a wide variety of mushrooms and even lettuce leaves, to be used as a burrito shell for cooked foods, rotating on the belt. It’s not just food, but straws are also rotating in a cup on the belt – the drinks are located in a fridge and you can take them yourself and then pay for them afterwards. “Maidian” is the Chinese word for bill and it happens to be the name of the Ukrainian revolution, so I find it easy to remember.
Most people just take a bunch of different food, dump it in the pot and eat it all together once it’s ready. There is also a great choice of sauces: spicy, sour among others.
Hot pot restaurants are popular in China and they come in all shapes in sizes. In restaurants you can get up to three different broths in a divided pot. You can then buy a variety of raw foods to throw in the pot, including frozen vegetables.
If you are not accustomed to Chinese cuisine, you may have some stomach problems as the broth is boiled tap water which can contain chemicals and bacteria that Westerners aren’t used to. Water is often brought to the table free of charge, however it may also be tap water. If they don’t bring you water automatically, you can ask for it – but don’t be surprised if it’s hot. You have to ask for “bing shuǐ” (cold water). Shuǐ is the spelling in pinyin, it’s pronounced a bit like shway.
There are also street-food hot pots served on tiny mobile carts in the evenings. The raw foods including meat, fish and vegetables are sold on sticks – customers select what they want and the vendor takes the items off the stick into a to-go cup of hot broth. It’s a great snack: quick & cheap! The experience is unique to China so make sure not to miss out on it when you visit.
Please excuse the low quality phone pics:
Meats, fish, dumplings and more:
Fruit! And tomatoes… they are 100% classified as a fruit here.
Sauces and more to spice things up!
They kept refilling this, but we ate it too quickly…
These ice creams were basically frozen sodas. Some were corn-shaped!