Where to find the city's best hot pots
A steaming bowl of fragrant soup is the perfect antidote for wintery shivers. If you're ready to take a break from good ol' chicken noodle and split pea, allow us to introduce you to some of the city's best hot pots. Hot pot is a generic term for a large, often communal, bowl of hearty soup kept hot at a table in a heated doughnut-shaped bowl with a central chimney or, more commonly these days, a portable burner. Many cultures have some form of hot pot-locally, you can find Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Korean varieties. No matter which you try, hot pot always translates to comforting, filling cold-weather food.
Beef Shabu Shabu at Ba Sho
Like much of Japanese cuisine, shabu shabu is simple, elegant, nuanced in flavor and thoughtfully presented. Beef Shabu Shabu ($48 for two people) is a great date-night treat. At Ba Sho, diners cook beautifully marbled slices of beef in delicately flavored kombu dashi, a broth made with kelp and bonito (dried fish) that's commonly used as the base for miso soup. Diners also have plenty of accoutrements-scallions, two kinds of mushroom, tofu and semitransparent rice noodles-to nibble with that beautiful beef, which needs just several seconds in the hot broth to be cooked tender. Just like at Siem Reap, don't skip the dipping sauces-citrusy ponzu sauce and another that's soy-based. They'll both add a bright edge to the beef and veggies.
Tom Ka Gai Fire Pot at Bangkok
Bring a group of friends to Bangkok for Tom Ka Gai Fire Pot ($11.95). This huge bowl of steaming coconut-based soup will get four or five people off to a nice start for dinner. (Or two really hungry people can share it for dinner as a main.) Bangkok serves this vat of soup in a huge bowl with a ladle and a small bowl for each diner on the side. The fire pot stays piping hot thanks to a burner beneath the bowl. Several soups are available in fire pots at Bangkok, but the Tom Ka Gai is my favorite-tender pieces of chicken, mushrooms, tomato and zippy bites of lemongrass and galangal (a distant cousin of ginger) swim in a savory, sweet broth spiced to order with chili paste. After dinner, wander the adjacent Thai grocery store and pick up cans of lychee fruit (they're great in martinis), curry paste and coconut milk for an at-home feast. Feeling extra brave? Buy a durian popsicle.
Lobster and Seafood Curry Hot Pot at Siem Reap
The Curry Hot Pot ($48.95) is just one of many reasons to visit Siem Reap, a mostly Cambodian hidden gem in the shadows of the Hollywood Casino. And ordering the lobster and seafood version is the ultimate luxury for a reasonable price, considering it'll feed four or five people quite comfortably. A giant bowl of coconut-based, curry-scented broth arrives, along with separate plates of raw seafood (a 2-pound lobster, calamari and shrimp), vegetables and noodles. Throw all the veggies in at once or cook them a few pieces at a time. Each person should cook one or two pieces of seafood at a time; it'll get rubbery if left in the bubbling broth too long. Leave the noodles for last; they're best just heated through in the broth as a meal ender. And do dip your cooked seafood in the zesty dipping sauce served with the hot pot-it's a perfect complement to the broth. This dish isn't typically made spicy, but you can request more heat when you order, says server and bartender Aaron Sorn.