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NYC restaurant Mala Hot Pot teaches us about modern Chinese hot pot

Time to master Chinese hot pot.

nine-grid hot pot with ingredients.
The Nine-Grid Blind Box Platter at Mala Hot Pot. Mala Hot Pot

From all-you-can-eat buffets to high-end chains from Chinahot pot comes in many forms. With so many options to choose from, expertise is needed. Enter Mala Hot Pot, a newly opened Sichuan hot pot restaurant in New York City. Not only does Mala Hot Pot air-freight sesame oil from Chongqing, China, but it also offers Chinese-themed cocktails and prime wagyu. We interviewed them to learn about all the insider details, from optimum cooking times to their specialty — the Nine-Grid Blind Box.

The Nine-Grid Blind Box

sliced short ribs on square plate.
The beef short ribs at Mala Hot Pot. Mala Hot Pot

Like many Chinese hot pot restaurants, Mala Hot Pot features a selection of broths, such as House-made Sweet & Sour Tomato Broth or Spicy Beef Tallow Broth with Chinese Spices & Herbs. However, one of the more interesting choices at Mala Hot Pot is the Nine-Grid Blind Box. Essentially, selecting this option is all about the surprises.

“Once the order is placed, the kitchen prepares a platter consisting of nine small portions of different dishes or ingredients,” explains Mala Hot Pot. “These portions are arranged in a grid-like pattern on a platter. Instead of choosing specific dishes from the menu, customers opt for a blind selection. They may indicate their preferences, such as dietary restrictions or ingredient preferences, but they don’t know exactly what they’ll receive. If you’re lucky, there’s a chance to get Japanese Kobe beef on the platter.”

From wagyu to fresh duck blood

Goose intestines in duck ceramic container.
The goose intestines at Mala Hot Pot. Mala Hot Pot

The key to a great Chinese hot pot experience is mastering the individual cooking times. Beef is one of the most popular animal protein choices and Mala Hot Pot recommends a delicate cook. For instance, Mala Hot Pot advises cooking the wagyu strip loin in the broth for 8 to 10 seconds and the USDA Prime ribeye steak (sliced very thin and presented on a gold plate at Mala Hot Pot) for 10 to 12 seconds.

But meat is only the start. Vegetableslike leafy pea shoots or Chinese cabbage, along with meatare fairly straightforward — simply cook to your desired doneness. However, Mala Hot Pot also features ingredients like duck blood and goose intestines, very popular items for Sichuan-style hot pot. For the goose intestines, the restaurants recommends only 15 seconds. The result? A texture that’s pleasantly springy without the gaminess expected of organ meat.

Another highlight is the fresh duck blood, which is not to be missed if you’re looking for an authentic Sichuan hot pot experience. “Our duck blood differs significantly from the ones commonly found in the market,” says Mala Hot Pot. “While most duck blood available in the market comes in solid blocks, we use authentic and fresh duck blood sourced from a local distributor, which has a tender texture similar to soft tofu. Duck blood is best cooked for at least 5 minutes. The longer you cook, the better the taste.”

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Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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