Nighttime hot pot is a good way to warm up on a cold Hanoi night. For a semi-temperate, semi-tropical city, Hanoi isn’t best equipped to stay warm during their short six to eight week cold, damp period – this where hot pot comes in. Hot pot in Vietnam is called lẩu and refers to the family style East Asian simmering pots of stock placed at the center of the dining table. The pot is kept simmering throughout the meal during which eaters place their desired ingredients directly into the pot to cook and eat. It’ll have broth, spices, tomatoes and pineapple with whatever meat you choose on the side. Traditional additions are slices of meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, taro root and seafood, all of which after are dipped in sauce once cooked.
The dish originated in Northern China in the late first millennium, spreading throughout the country within a few hundred years. Hot pot migrated to Vietnam and was adapted to local ingredients, just as many foods did once they reached Vietnam from China. A sour soup called canh chua typically includes fish, pineapples, tomatoes, herbs, beansprouts, tamarind, and many vegetables. It is often cooked hot pot style and turned into a spicy sour soup called lẩu canh chua.
The seafood hot pots with shrimp are a bit trickier because they are served live. Locals say the best way to cook the shrimp without splashing the hot soup is to securely hold the shrimp in the broth with your chopsticks until it stops moving; then you can release it from the chopsticks to cook.
Image: johnlemon Lảu dê Bàu Sen
During the winter, head to Cao Bá Quát Street that hooks north off of Văn Miếu, Tống Duy Tân alley, and Phùng Hưng Street just around the corner from Tống Duy Tân and runs parallel to the train tracks. For chicken hot pot, go to Quán Rượu – Trường Xuân Tửu, 112 Giảng Võ Street. Vegetarian hot pot is even available at Tamarind Café at 80 Pho Ma May. Ashima is an upscale locale for the dish serving updated versions versions of traditional varieties. Reservations are required but don’t worry if you can’t snag a table – locals agree that the regular hole-in-the-wall places are just as good. The dish is perfect for a large group of friends or any size family since the it’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by many at once.
Lẩu Hải Sản: seafood hot pot
Lẩu Thập Cẩm: mixed meat and seafood hot pot