Why Hotpot is the way to go for a Group

Hotpot is one of those meals that I’ve loved since I was a kid. My Mum had a ‘steamboat,’ basically a home version of a Chinese hotpot. The pot is placed on the dining table over a flame and then filled with piping hot stock. Each person has a basket they fill with raw food and then add to the pot. Once it’s cooked you scoop it out and eat it. We loved the fact we could eat what we pleased.

As an adult, and bizarrely for an adult in Singapore, I’ve hardly ever had hotpot. Recently though, when facing a conundrum about a dinner venue I decided we should give hotpot a try.

My conundrum was caused by my recent aversion to group dinners. Whilst I really love the idea of friends getting together over food, sometimes it’s hard to keep everyone happy. This is especially the case where you have food ‘issues’ to contend with. A vegetarian here, a meat lover there and a gluten intolerant person thrown in for good measure can all make for a fraught evening if you’re the organiser.

When I first came upon the idea of hotpot I thought it would never work because we had meat eaters and non meat eaters. Luckily, when I phoned Long Qing they said it was no problem to accommodate both at one table. So I booked for six of us and in we rocked.

Long Qing is a slightly unusual beast in Hong Kong Street. Only because it’s one of few local cuisines available. Nearby is great Spanish at FOC, great French at Bacchanlia and great cocktails at 28 Hong Kong Street and Vasco. Long Qing very much fits in though. Whilst the restaurant is super casual, there’s some funky graffiti art on the walls and good lighting to create a mood.

When I arrived and said I’d reserved a table they quickly ‘recognised’ me as Victoria. As in, the only angmoh name in the booking list. That’s always a good start in a Chinese restaurant. As is friendly service. We were offered a drinks menu and were served with friendly efficiency. Drinks choices are not vast. There’s Tsing Tao ($4++ each) and only one white wine (a decent unwooded chardonnay at $60++ per bottle) and I think one red wine. There’s also sake and sochu.

Being the lazy group we were we decided to order the set menu. For $30++ per head you can choose a mix of fish, meat and veg, and you can substitute those items you don’t like for something of similar value. We went for the usual suspects of prawns, fish, short rib, chicken and pork, with lots of veg and even a few dumplings thrown in for good measure. The food was more than enough, we were totally stuffed once we’d finished. We possibly would have enjoyed some carbs so next time I’d be inclined to order a few sides of rice. All the food was bright and fresh and once it had spent some time in the rich broth everything was full of flavour.

There are several broth choices, we went for the signature meat broth and the mushroom broth. Our pot was brought out with a divider down the middle making it super easy for us all to share and use the broth we preferred. One thing to note about Long Qing is that there’s no MSG in the broth. Which is a pretty big deal because many hotpot restaurants do use MSG in Singapore. Not only that but the broth was full of flavour thanks to the hours boiling on the stove.

Hotpot is a great idea for dining with a group of friends. Whilst you have a chance to catch up there’s also the enjoyment of sharing food together. The simple wooden benches and tables mean that you can squeeze a good sized group in and you’re not too paranoid about spilling food or making a mess. The service at Long Qing was great, efficient and friendly.  Even in the face of a blackout that lasted around 15 minutes staff were apologetic and helpful.

For a group dinner I’m definitely heading back to Long Qing for hotpot some time soon.

Do you have any good group dinner venues to share? 

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