Hot Pot at iPot, Darling Harbour

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The first thing that you will notice at iPot is the sauce station. Filled with more than 24 different sauces, this is the ultimate DIY experience that is sure to both excite and overwhelm you. 

If you have never tried hot pot before, then iPot might be just the right place to start. As opposed to other hot pot restaurants, which offer a standard menu of set soup bases and ingredients, iPot lets you create and customise your very own hot pot according to your taste and preferences.

We are told that when people of think of hot pot, they think of the Northern China variety, which is often quite rich and spicy. This is quite different from the hot pot offered at iPot - their version more closely resembles that of South China, which is characterised by a lighter, clearer soup base and also features seafood as a common ingredient.

While the tradition hot pot experience involves one large communal pot, which diners share, here each person is given an individual hot pot, which joyously bubbles away on an electric stove embedded into the table. Choose your soup base from the extensive list on the menu, which lists both classic and more unique soup varieties.

There is an endless range of items that you can choose to add to your hot pot, with a key focus on top quality local produce. Queensland Rangelands beef, Australian Wagyu steak and scallops and New Zealand mussels all feature on the menu, as well as more exotic proteins like Aussie abalone and yabbies.

Although it may seem like there are too many choices to make here (which soup base to pick? What meats go together well? Do I want seafood with that too?), hot pot is one of those prime dishes where you really can't go wrong with whatever you choose. If you have a tendency to be indecisive when it comes to ordering, then there are also vegetable and meat sharing plates that offer a little bit of everything.

One of iPot's more unique hot pot specialties is their handmade Wah. These are made from various kinds of mince that is ground or mixed to a sticky paste, then hand-shaped and served ready to be cooked in your broth. The end result is a flavoursome, soft, springy protein that has a distinct texture. Varieties include cuttlefish and abalone, pork and mushroom, and also a very innovative (and fun!) DIY noodle Wah.

On top of your proteins, add fresh vegetables and mushrooms, or perhaps some dumplings, fish balls, pancakes or sticky rice cakes. Finish it off with some noodles and tofu to soak up all the complex flavours that have developed over the course of time.

Once you've ordered, you can have a little bit of fun mixing up your own sauce. On the grand sauce station are more predictable fresh aromatics such as spring onion, coriander and crushed garlic, alongside standard sauces like sesame, soy, hoisin and chilli. There is a large number of more unusual sauces that are handmade by the kitchen, such as a seafood sauce (made from soy, shrimp and coriander), beef mince, mushroom and special iPot sauces.

If you are afraid of clashing flavours or overloading on the sauces, don't be. Most of them, surprisingly, seem to complement each other quite well. There is also a dedicated section of the menu that recommends various sauce combinations depending on your palette.

Mix in a splash of your soup stock to create the ideal hot pot dipping sauce. This will serve as the dipping sauce that will accompany your hot pot ingredients. My sauce was a mix of coriander, spring onion, chilli, seafood, iPot and beef mince sauces. The beef mince gives the sauce a bit of texture and chunkiness, while the chilli adds heat. The seafood sauce - which is made by simmering soy with coriander - acts as a solvent for the rest of the nibbly bits. The real mystery here is the iPot sauce - made from a special recipe that includes peanut butter and cinnamon, it has a somewhat sweet-savoury flavour that is hard to pinpoint. 

Smoky mushroom soup base
The best thing about getting your own hotpot is being able to adapt it to your own taste without having to worry about other people's preferences. It's also a lot more hygienic than a shared hotpot, too. I opt for the smoky mushroom soup base, which is filled with lots of enoki, button, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, along with some tomato.

Queensland Rangers Aged Beef
Ultra thin slices of marbled beef are deftly rolled and served almost frozen to retain their delicate shape. They don't take long to cook at all, and because they have an almost 50-50 fat to meat ratio, stay super succulent and soft even if you happen to leave them in the soup for a little too long.  

NZ Green-lipped mussels

Australian scallops
Fat Aussie scallops are meaty and succulent, while green mussels lend a seafood flavour to the soup base. 

Ling Fish
Ling is a great fish to add to a hot pot; it retains some firmness when cooked and is also quite sweet. 

Seafood stick and fish dumplings
These homemade dumplings are a revelation. They arrive frozen and are filled with a fish roe mixture, ready to be popped straight into the boiling soup to cook through. 

The end result is a soft, bun-like mouthful with a firm but fluffy casing, which oozes a bright, yellow, molten fishy mess once bitten into. Be careful though - the first bite can squirt the hot roe out in all different directions!

Fresh prawns and iPot egg dumplings
Egg dumplings have an omelette-like casing in place of the conventional dough wrapper. It even tastes a like an ultra-thin omelette. Fresh prawns come with the shell on, which adds even more flavour to the soup. 

Mini wah combination sharing plate
Hand-rolled mini Wah are perfect for popping straight into your broth. These take next to no time at all to cook. On the combination sharing plate is an arrangement of seafood and corn, beef, pork and mushroom, shrimp and cuttlefish mini Wah. It's an excellent variety, and the sharing plates are a good item to order if you would like to try a wide range of Wah.  

Homemade cuttlefish noodle Wah
Inject some fun into your hot pot with this noodle cuttlefish Wah, which comes in a plastic piping bag so that you can create your own noodles. Pipe lengths into the broth and watch as they instantaneously form sturdy, white noodles. 

Prawn Wah
This is prawn Wah is my favourite variety of the night. Unlike the mini Wah, it comes as a larger ball from which you can scoop off smaller pieces and drop straight into your soup.

The prawn meat is impossible soft and sweet, and unlike anything I have tasted before. Mashing and grinding the protein gives it and almost bouncy texture, and eliminates excess moisture so that each bite is packed full of flavour. 

Hot pot makes for an ideal group gathering; the more diners, the more ingredients you can add! Just because you have your own hot pot here, it doesn't mean that you necessarily miss out on the sharing factor, as all ingredients are meant to be shared around the table.

The hot pot possibilities at iPot really are endless. Whether you're a person who likes it plain and simple, or one who likes to go crazy with ingredients and sauces, it's a great place to go for a fun, warming dining experience.


Ipot Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

I was lucky enough to dine as a guest, however all opinions are my own.

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