Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash
Hot pot is a quintissential part of Chinese and many other East Asian cuisines. If you have never heard of hot pot, you can think of it as essentially just a method of cooking that the Chinese created by using a big boiling pot of flavorful soup and containing a wide variety of meats and vegetables.
What distinguishes hot pot from many other traditional soups is that you actually cook the ingredients yourself and the process is similar to the process of korean barbeque except instead of a grill you have a boiling pot. The experience can also in some aspects be similar to fondue except instead of cheese or chocolate you dip your ingredients into a flavorful soup.
Many of the ingredients for hot pot may seem familiar as they are all used in some aspect of asian cuisines. Some of these ingredients might be, beef brisket or any other thinly sliced meat, leafy greens, tofu, mushrooms, and seafood. For hot pot all of these ingredients are prepared in such a a way that they will be easy to dip into the soup and cook quickly. At the conclusion of the meal many times the soup broth that has been enhanced with many flavors from the meal is used to cook noodles and then served as a finishing bowl of noodles at the conclusion of the meal.
There has been a long history of the hot pot dish which can be traced back all the way to the Zhou dynasty in China around BC 200. Since then, there have been countless establishments popping up all over China serving hot pot. Despite the huge variety of different hot pot restaurants, one name has stood out over the rest.
Haidilao was first founded in the Sichuan provence of China in the mid 1990's. They are currently the largest hot pot chain in China and have opened a large number of branches internationally as well. The name, Haidilao, actually comes from the term in Mahjong which directly translates to "deep sea dredging". The Mahjong term is used to describe a way of winning the game by completing a winning hand after choosing the last tile that is available in the stack.
The reason Haidilao has been able to garner such love from its fans as well as expand to so many locations is due to their exemplary customer service. They focus on maintaining a high quality of flavor in their soup broth as well as extremely fresh ingredients but also are able to provide absolutely amazing customer service.
Haidilao has since received many awards such as the title of "Chinese Famous Hot Pot" by the CCA and has been included in the "Top 100 Chinese Catering Businesses 2010".
There are currently a few Haidilao branches in the United States in some locations such as Los Angeles and New York and as of February 2021, Haidilao has officially opened their first branch in Chicago.
The Chicago location has seen a huge surge in popularity as hot pot is not something that you can find in many places around the Chicagoland area outside of Chinatown.
You can find Haidilao in Chicago located here: 107 E Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616
As of the writing of this article(March 25th, 2021), Haidilao requires you to have reservations and offers both dine in and takeout or delivery options. Masks are also required to be worn by all customers while they are not eating as well as staff at all times. They have a mandatory temperature check at the door and all tables are well disinfected between parties. Make sure to reserve a few days in advance as seating times are quick to go!