Hot Pot Summer? Customizable soup experience offers value, healthy options

Hot soup may not be your definition of summer grindz, but food that makes you sweat has been scientifically proven to cool you down
Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 9:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hot soup may not be your definition of summer grindz, but if you’re looking to beat the heat, food that makes you sweat has been scientifically proven to help you cool down.

Hot pot -- a Chinese cooking style of simmering meat and veggies in a flavorful broth -- originated from Mongolian soldiers who used their helmets to cook meat and vegetables in water-based broth over fire.

More than a thousand years later, restaurateurs are recreating that primal experience for people who want to cook their own meals from an unlimited buffet of fresh ingredients.

“We have meats and a lot of vegetables from here on this island. And a lot of soup base they can choose and sauce,” said Jack Zhang, owner of Hawaii Pot Shabushabu House, which combines Chinese tradition with Japanese style shabu shabu, a form of hot pot that involves swishing thinly sliced raw meat in boiling broth and dipping it in sauces.

Customization is what makes hot pot fun and unique – no bowl is the same -- giving finicky families a chance to personalize meals and enjoy them together.

Here’s how it works -- choose a soup base and spice level – flavors like miso, seafood, curry or spicy kimchee.

At the Pearl Ridge Center location, a mini big rig delivers plates of sliced beef, chicken, lamb, pork or seafood and side dishes like aged tofu, crispy oyster and shrimp to your table.

Grab other ingredients you like from the conveyor belt, such as noodles, fish, and veggies.

There’s even a sauce bar, where you can blend ginger, shoyu, garlic, chili and other condiments to suit your taste.

Zhang opened his first restaurant in 2007 and now runs six locations on Oahu and one in California.

He says hot pot has become so popular, he plans to open more locations. But expanding comes with challenges.

“We want to open more, more restaurants, but we have problem. I think a lot of businessmen have same problems like me, it’s permit. So it’s very hard to do a business plan,” Zhang said. “We’re waiting for one year and then two year, we still cannot get the permit.”

Zhang says he looks forward to improvements in the city’s process so entrepreneurs like him can help the economy recover.

And while food and leasing costs are high, Zhang hopes demand remains hot.