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Eating hot pot at a restaurant is easy. Show up, pick a broth, point at some proteins and veggies, and commence a leisurely, interactive meal with friends and family. But those who’ve avoided indoor dining during the pandemic have missed out on this tradition that’s especially desired in the winter.
Trying hot pot at home requires more effort, money, and knowledge. You first need to buy the proper cooking equipment and then you need to make a trip to H Mart or another grocery store that carries Asian produce like daikon, lotus root, and wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced cuts of pork and beef, a variety of tofu and fish cake products, and noodles. Then there’s the matter of coming up with a close approximation of the dipping sauces that add a final pop of flavor.
Enter Chef Will Fung. Recognizing Washingtonians are eager to switch up their dinner routine 10 months into the pandemic, he’s launching Fat Choi Hot Pot next week. Customers can purchase hot pot packages for pick-up or delivery that serve two to three people ($75). Those in need of cooking equipment can rent a yin yang split vessel for $10 that allows diners to sample two broths. (Fung takes a $50 deposit that’s refunded once customers return the pot.)
Fung lived in Hong Kong until he was 10 years old. Locally, his resume includes stints at Hei Hei Tiger, Tiger Fork, Calico, and Dirty South Deli. He also spent a year cooking at a 300-year-old kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, Japan.
Hot pot was something Fung always did with his parents growing up. When he tried to recreate the experience with his wife recently, he noticed they wound up with more food waste compared to when they did hot pot with a larger group or at a restaurant where ingredients are carefully portioned.
“We want to provide that variety that makes hot pot such a fun, special night, but streamline it so you can bring it into your own home,” Fung says. “Most people don’t have the equipment and stuff at home and probably don’t want to buy 20 different things … Even if you are a hot pot veteran, this cuts the legwork for you so you can focus on creating your perfect Spotify list for date night.”
Fung takes care of newbies. The Fat Choi Hot Pot website contains a cooking guide that walks diners through how long to cook ingredients like enoki mushrooms, pork and shrimp dumplings, squid, scallops, and grass-fed New York strip. Further questions can be answered by texting Fung’s hot-pot hotline at (703) 887-9249.
There will be four broths to choose from to start: original herb, shiro miso, spicy Sichuan, and laksa. Fung will rotate in new ones and will ask his local chef buddies to contribute guest broths. After selecting two, diners can choose between a mixed set with meat and seafood or a seafood-only set. Fung can create a vegetarian or vegan set upon request with advanced notice. Look for fun add-ons like Wagyu beef, live clams, and offal down the line.
Each set comes with a generous spread of ingredients like dashi-poached lotus root, fried and marinated eggplant, bean curd rolls, rice cakes, Lanzhou-style noodles, fish cakes, sauces, and fried garlic oil.
Fat Choi will release its menu on Mondays at 3 p.m. starting next week. Customers can place hot pot orders for Thursdays through Sundays. Pick-up takes place at Lavagna (539 8th St. SE) between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Those who rent equipment should return it to Lavagna during the same time window the following day. Fung is also able to offer limited delivery within Ward 6. He hopes to expand the delivery radius, but emphasizes that Fat Choi Hot Pot is a solo operation.
Fung named his business after a mahjong title that displays the Chinese character that signifies prosperity. Having hot pot at home will certainly make our shut-in lives a little richer.
Fat Choi Hot Pot; (703) 887-9249; fatchoihotpot.com