A great way to shake out the cold in your bones is to plop down with some friends at a good hotpot place and fill your stomach with warm soup and a wonderful array of meats, seafood, veggies, and anything you can cook in a boiling vat of delicious.
Shanghai has a whole range of hotpot restaurants, from the fast-food (Little Sheep) to the kitschy (Haodilao, well-known for its service, pre-seating manicures, and in-house auteurs of performance-oriented noodle-tossing) to the high-end organic (Qimin). Laowang, which I’d first visited some months ago, is a Taiwanese brand doing Cantonese-style hotpot, has a location close to my place in Jing’an, and is my go-to place for such chairbound exercise in heat transfer (and overindulgence in cheese-filled shrimp balls).
Laowang has a self-service sauce bar, and my usual mix is a scoop of diced garlic, lots of salt and a heavy, heavy pour of sesame oil, modeled after the side bowl of sesame oil I kept seeing in Sichuan spicy hotpots in Chengdu.
As we waited for the non-spicy half of the soup (which is supposed to be drunk first before cooking anything) to boil, we tide ourselves over with a pitcher of fruit-and-vegetable tea and a delicious claypot of rice, seasoned with bits of sausage and full of charred bits (like bibimbap).
The other (sometimes less pleasant, but equally memorable) part of the experience is the peppery, smoky odor that permeates every fiber of your body, hair, and clothing after you leave. So, it’s advisable not to wear your nice clothes. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.
1052 Wuding Lu, near Jiaozhou Lu / 武定路1052号 （近胶州路）