If you like my review of the 18th Street Hot Pot in Adelaide and have fallen in love with spicy pick-your-own style hot pot, you can now cross the Gouger Street and check out Chao Chow, another new kid in the block for hot pot style food. Located in a much bigger premise, this split-level restaurant offers similar yet different choices from 18th Street Hot Pot.
Chao Chow Hot Pot restaurant. Image from Chao Chow
If you are new to the pick-your-own style, let me give a brief summary here. You pick whatever ingredients on display and you pay based on how heavy the total weight is. The combined ingredients in your tray will be charged at $3 per 100g. You then choose your hot pot style and how spicy it is. A freshly cooked bowl of noodles will be brought to your table when the kitchen finishes cooking up your tray of food according to your liking.
During the pre-Covid-19 era, customers picked their own raw ingredients and put them into their tray. Now, you are accompanied by a staff who will pick for you based on your instructions. You may think that half of pick-and-choose fun disappears with this restriction. On the contrary, I find this a more authentic and cultural experience. Think of a personal foodie guide by your side, you can ask as many questions as you want about those ingredients you have never seen but curious what they taste like.
Are you going for a bowl of noodles without a price tag in mind? Why not go strategic and get the cheapest bowl of noodles in Chinatown? I am going to show you the trick of getting a decent bowl of noodles without paying top dollar. Since the food is priced at $3 per 100g, it works out $30 a kilo. Who wants to pay $30 a kilo for water? Go for anything that looks dry. If you see something sitting in the water, skip it or pick as little as you can. For noodles, instant noodles will be of the best value since it's completely dehydrated. Today I went for crab balls and lobster ball knowing that they are expensive items in the Homes Supermarket across the road.
This kind of marinated meat will be on the more expensive scale as it is a 'wet' ingredient.
Another fun way for this pick-your-own style hot pot is to pick one item from each tray. It will take you at least 2 to 3 visits to cover all items on offer as there are just so many ingredients to try. Chao Chow offers different ingredients on different days and times. Don't be surprised to find something that you have never tried in your next visit. The surprise ingredients of today included purple sweet potato rice cake, cheese rice cake, pumpkin rice cake and ox aorta. I never knew that blood vessels are edible let alone tasty. According to their Facebook page, they also have BBQ skewers grilled on charcoal fire too. I just find another reason to go back to Chao Chow.
The surprise ingredients of today included purple sweet potato rice cake, cheese rice cake, pumpkin rice cake ...
There are 3 types of hot pot styles on offer. The original spicy hot pot is served with a beef and pork bone broth that has the greatest depth among all 3 choices. The spicy sesame sauce is served without broth (dry style) that suits the hot weather best. You don't want to sweat eating a big bowl of hot soup noodles on a 40-degree day. The Sichuan spicy hot pot is spicy on the top end of the scale. After you pick you hot pot style, there are 3 levels of heat you can pick: mild, medium and hot. Suggest to try mild for your first time to be on the safe side. It caught me by surprise when my "medium" bowl arrived. The amount of chill oil in my bowl has broken a record for me.