If you like hot pot, you'll like Simmer Huang. This Chinese simmer pot restaurant franchise serves up customisable dishes, giving you the freedom to choose your own ingredients.
Our empty pot waiting to be filled.
The system of Simmer Huang is similar to most hot pot places. You get a pot on the stove on your table, and you get a list of ingredients to choose from. There is a wide range of set simmer pot options if you aren't feeling creative (with everything from barramundi to Alaskan king crab), but I highly recommend picking your own ingredients to maximise your enjoyment of the meal. For every customised simmer pot, you choose six portions of ingredients – so feel free to double up on your favourite ingredients. The options are mostly proteins, and include chicken wings, pork ribs, lamb, squid, octopus, fish balls, tofu, Spam and delicious collagen-laden pig feet. Considering the cooking style is simmering, it's best to choose the ingredients that benefit from slow cooking – such as the pork ribs – rather than the seafood that toughens up during the cooking process.
Instructions on how to order.
Like hot pot, you can choose the spiciness level of your dish. The lowest spiciness level is simply named "salty", so it appears to not be spicy at all. "Mild" offers a pleasant, hot kick while "spicy" gives quite a decent burn. There are two more spicy levels beyond "spicy", for those with a sense of adventure and guts of steel. Stick to salty or mild if you aren't the biggest fan of hot food, and be prepared to guzzle ice water and wipe your runny nose if you pick any of the spicy options.
Part of the fun of Simmer Huang is the cooking process. The wait staff drop a generous pat of "butter paste" to the hot simmer pot, then add a pre-prepared container of capsicum, sweet potato, onions, garlic. On top of this they neatly pack the raw ingredients that you selected, and drizzle some more spices across the lot. After this, the lid goes on for fifteen minutes, during which you can either hungrily watch other people getting their food or nibble on a side dish. The latter is more satisfying, though side dish options are limited to plain bing pancakes or fragrant scallion pancakes. These pancakes are thin, crispy on both sides, and greasy – in a good way. Save a few for dipping into your simmer pot.
After the ingredients have been cooked, the special Simmer Huang sauce is mixed in. This sauce appears to be some kind of thick, sticky soy-based marinade that requires your waiter/waitress to stand by the table for a minute, energetically stirring it in a plastic bowl to loosen it up before they pour it into the pot. A few more minutes of simmering, and the dish is (finally!) ready to eat.
Pouring the sauce.
The simmer pot is very savoury, with flavour that goes into every single ingredient. It's tempting to prioritise the ingredients you select, but the vegetables are also delicious. As a big fan of garlic, I even found myself eating whole cloves of the softened, juicy garlic by the end of the meal.
Simmer Huang also offers a unique noodle option. Once you've made your way through most of the pot, a staff member will pour in a broth to turn the pot into the soup base for the noodles. While the soup comes to a boil, they stretch the long, flat noodles out by hand by your table. Give the noodles a few minutes to cook, as they're relatively thick and benefit from absorbing the flavour of the soup. The noodle option is definitely a nice way to wrap up the meal, especially if you're hungry. The simmer pot alone can feed two people comfortably, but adding the noodles at the end can satisfy big appetites.