Food trends: hot pot keeps getting hotter, with more new restaurants opening up throughout Metro Vancouver

Wondering how to hot pot? Here's a basic guide to the unique, communal dining experience

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      The hot-pot scene in Metro Vancouver continues to pick up steam.

      Among the new places for locals to check out is Legendary Hot Pot at Park Royal South in West Vancouver (796 Main Street). It’s Sichuan-style and offers lunch specials as well as hot pot for one.

      Dolar Shop in Richmond (720-5300 No. 3 Road), meanwhile, is part of a global chain that has 52 restaurants around the world and counting. London, Paris, and Milan are home to outlets; soon joining the mega-company are locations in Seattle, Boston, and Sydney. The B.C. location is the first Canadian shop. Among its house specialities is a prawn paste that took 10 years to perfect.

      For newbies who aren’t sure what hot pot is (but were afraid to ask), think of it as Asian fondue.

      Different countries, and different regions within them, have their own styles, but the approach is generally the same. Typically, everyone cooks their own food in a shared pot of seasoned, simmering broth that sits on a heating element at the centre of the table. (There are exceptions: places like Nabebugyo provide personal hot pots; other spots, like the forthcoming Rad, do the cooking for you.)

      You can order a single type of spicy or nonspicy broth, or various bases can be served in a split pot with a built-in divider (or several). As more foods get cooked, the flavour of the broth changes and deepens; if beef or other meats are added, it generally gets fattier and oilier, too.

      Ideally, with a communal pot, everyone has a few pairs of chopsticks: one to dip raw fish, meat, or chicken into the broth (foods that are removed via small mesh baskets); perhaps another for veggies; and another set to eat with.

      Condiments are usually set out for people to mix their own dipping sauce, which could include soy sauce, peanut sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame paste, chili oil or paste, cilantro, or other ingredients.

      The range of foods that can go into the pot is immense, from mutton, geoduck, pork blood, and mini wontons to taro, tofu, udon, and fish balls. 

      This may be comfort food, but it can also take people out of their comfort zone. It's best enjoyed with a group of friends and an adventurous spirit.