– Don’t eat what floats (refers to garnishes used for flavor rather than consumption)
– Don’t let the ladle slip into the broth
– Come on an empty stomach
Hot pot is a Chinese tradition of communal style cuisine that is thought to have originated in Mongolia. It consists of a base of broth that cooks and flavors an array of vegetables, starches (namely various types of noodles) meats and often seafood, with optional sauces for dipping. The modern day means of serving hot pot constitutes a bowl of broth centered in the middle of the table on an electric heating mechanism, while tradition called for fire or coals.
Although the tradition of hot pot dates back over 1,000 years, it still resonates in modern day Asian culture. Establishments like Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot in Torrance not only participate in the effort to keep tradition alive in an era of modern cuisine, they go one step further to expose a greater segment of the non Asian population to a traditional cuisine centered on communal dining.
Little Sheep Group Limited established the first Little Sheep restaurant in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China in 1991 and currently operates more than 300 Little Sheep restaurants in China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. Recent openings include those in Torrance and Texas while a Pasadena opening is slated for the near future.
Little Sheep fosters hands on dining for both first time hot pot adventurers and veteran enthusiasts. The meal is served a la carte style and the method of ordering is simplified on the menu in 3 steps:
Step 1: Select a soup base of original broth, spicy broth or half and half
Step 2: Select meat and seafood (most notable is the lamb imported from New Zealand)
Step 3: Select from a total of 35 vegetables, noodles and other accompaniments such as wontons and pork blood rice cake
Diners can add their preferences of meat, seafood (house shrimpballs shown at left), vegetables, noodles, and other sides at their own pace or all accompaniments can be placed in the broth at once. Either choice prompts the patron to keep one thing in mind – due to the high temperature at which the broth is kept, the ingredients tend to cook fairly quickly (the meat taking on average only two to three seconds). The menu suggests ordering on average 2 sides per person. Whether you are dining for two or out with a group, you can customize your order to fit your party.
At the core of Little Sheep’s philosophy resides the second most important element of food – community. Hot pot fosters the interest to enjoy a healthy, engaging meal while partaking in the inherent socialization that comes with communal style eating. Make a reservation, enjoy some sake and try your hand at getting the noodles out of the pot without letting them slip.
By Tiffany Haslacker