As the name implies, hot pots are hot. How hot? My server can’t tell the exact temperature of the rich broth tossing dried chiles around at a rolling boil on the induction burner in front of me, but she points to a recent battle scar on her chin.
“I bent over and got too close,” she says. “So, yes, they are very hot.”
This is the first rule of hot pot: Respect the hotness of the pot. Here are more to get you started at Lotus Hot Pot & Grill (6591 N. Oak Trafficway, Gladstone).
1) The pot is hot. Do not touch the pot on the table. Things that emerge from the rolling boil are also very hot. Do not put them directly into your mouth.
2) Choose your add-ins not so carefully. The Lotus menu includes more than a hundred options, all to be cooked in the pot at your table. They’re divided by type with mushrooms, meatballs and tofu getting their own sections. You will for sure want noodles, meat and vegetables, all of which will cook at their own pace. Part of the fun is experimenting with different combinations.
3) The house-special clear noodles are delicious and cook in about four minutes, meaning they’re a little more forgiving than vermicelli or pho noodles, which cook in a minute or two. Another easy option is the egg noodles, which don’t even need to be cooked—you just drop them in your bowl and douse with broth.
4) Mushrooms are a must for adding extra umami to the bowl. Enoki mushrooms are tasty and will cook in just a minute while the wood ear can rest in the pot for the entire cook.
5) When it comes to meat, Lotus offers everything from Spam to pig heart. A great choice for hot pot newcomers is the ribeye, which is shaved as thin as prosciutto and served in a tall pink pile. The ribeye cooks in just six or seven seconds, and it’s best to just hold onto it with your chopsticks so it’s not pulled under by the riptide of boiling broth. Meatballs come frozen and you can leave them in the pot for a half-hour without them breaking down.
6) The vegetables range from napa cabbage and okra to konjac and lotus root. Baby bok choy is always highly recommended—it cooks down in about five minutes and goes beautifully with the house-special spicy broth.