My family shares another tradition on Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey, we eat hot pot and no one person is stuck with all the cooking. The food is cooked at the table. For me, digging into a communal spread around a rich, bubbling stock is as heartwarming as Hallmark and soothing on a winter’s night as a belly full of tryptophan. The key to the process is taking your time.
“Hot pot is one of those cuisines you have to enjoy slowly, you can’t rush the process because it’s meant to be a social type of dining where you slowly cook the food and enjoy the company you’re with,” said Steve Yang, regional manager of Bellevue’s Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot.
There is a hot pot for nearly every Asian culture, and the version at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot in Bellevue originates from inner Mongolia using herbs and spices from Mongolia and China. Like other long practiced traditions, eating hot pot comes with a few rules.
“A lot of people new to hot pot must understand that you do not dump all the raw and fresh food in all at once to cook, you must cook the items you want to eat as you’re about to eat it to really enjoy the whole hot pot process,” Yang explains.
Little Sheep offers five stocks to choose from, or a half and half, which offers both the original and spicy stocks. The house original, a sharp, sweet, and almost creamy stock enriched by medicinal herbs like goji berries, red dates, ginseng, and cardamom cuts the fattiness of Kobe beef, absorbs the vegetal sweetness of native greens, and is designed to tame the gaminess of lamb. So eat with the soup for which the soup was designed: paper thin cuts of lamb shoulder or leg, and my personal favorite—the rich and tender lamb meat balls. Couple those with a seafood platter or more adventurous picks (Sea cucumber hearts or goose intestines? Yes please!) or temper the heat with some cold dishes, refreshing bitter melon salad, Mongolian kimchee, or pickled cucumbers.
When sated, warm your belly with the leftover soup enriched with the flavors of land and sea. Do not, and I repeat, do not leave behind the garlic cloves that have grown buttery after steeping in the potent stock. Little Sheep offers authentic desserts like the red bean paste yam cake, Phoenix yolk buns, or sesame balls with red bean paste. And if turkey on Thanksgiving (and all the days after) is still your thing, they will soon feature a seasonal Kurabuto Pork (naturally sourced from Snake River Farms) and Pickled Cabbage hot pot, with flavors inspired from Northern China, to have you rethinking your other plans for the holidays.
How To Get There: Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, 1411 156th Ave NE, Suite A Bellevue, WA 98007