The traditional Chinese hotpot is a great way to enjoy an evening of food with friends. Sat around a pot of steaming broth placed atop a hotplate in the centre of the table, everyone gets stuck in, plunging an array of vegetables, meat and fish into the bubbling soup. I’m sure all Chinese families have their own method and secrets to the perfect hotpot, but the basic elements remain the same for all; a metal pot split into two sides to allow for one spicy and one fragrant soup, to suit all tastebuds (although the mouth-numbing Si Chuan peppercorn broth is usually the favourite) and a bowl of sesame sauce for dipping per person.
There’s a new hotpot joint in town in Kuala Lumpur and it’s as authentic as it gets. The owner grew up in China before moving to KL for work, and wanted to bring the true flavours of Chinese hotpot to his new home. Shabu Express oozes simplicity. There is nothing lavish about the black tables, white chairs and tiled flooring, and the view of a shopping mall to one side and cars parked along a busy street to the other leaves much to be desired. The focus here is on the food.
Shabu Express’ menu features lunch sets with a choice of chicken, lamb, beef or seafood, as well as à la carte items. And for large groups (or particularly hungry bellies) there’s an impressive family size hotpot feast that leaves nothing to be desired. There’s plenty of veg, including three kinds of mushrooms, from bouncy button to stringy enoki, thinly sliced meat and white fish, shell-on prawns, a selection of noodles, whole eggs for poaching, tofu “skins”, and a very colourful plate of seafood items, including fish balls, crab sticks and prawn dim sum (all of which looks a little bizarre but tastes great!)
The delicate slices of white fish were exceptional cooked in the spicy broth and eaten with a mouthful of glass noodles which soaked up more chilli flavour, and the nutty sesame dipping sauce gave a great hit of flavour to the fresh Chinese cabbage leaves, meaty mushrooms and potato slices. To my surprise, the scary-looking century eggs were also very tasty – a subtle taste rather than the pungent eggy flavour I was expecting.
You will inevitably go beyond comfortably full here, but you shouldn’t feel too guilty – it’s healthy stuff – lots of veg and metabolism boosting chilli! Wash the meal down with a cool Tiger beer and you’ll leave happy.
3, Jalan 7a/62a
52200 Kuala Lumpur