Before you roll your eyes at another new hot pot place, let me stop you right there. This one is a whole lot of different, offering more than just meat and vegetables in soup. This is first hotpot service that I haven’t had to rely on any side sauces to flavour boiled ingredients. Everything was just so fragrant that we skipped it all together, but more on that later.
Located in Richmond (for someone who lives in Burnaby, such as myself), it is quite the distance to travel for hot pot. But once again given the uniqueness of it, this one is worth commuting to. Even their name sets them apart. “Jiang Hu” means “gangster” in Chinese. The title meant to symbolize the glitzy part of the lifestyle and the camaraderie of a gang, and not so much the illegal aspects of it. The employee uniforms speak to this branding: each server wears a black logo tee, embossed with the restaurant’s name in gold; but most noticeable, is the fake tattoo sleeves worm on each arm. Although, all this detail is contradicted by the rotation of Chinese and North American pop music playing overhead.
And when it come to the aesthetics, the restaurant’s decor and utensils spoke to them being a fine dining establishment. Which ran parallel to their focus on higher end ingredients and a quality dining experience. Although, as a “gangster”, I guess you can afford and do enjoy the better things in life.
We were seated in a regal dining room with dark wood tables and bucketed tweed seats, framed by Chinese artistry. A mixed metal-media panel showed tranquil waters with greenery and lotus blooms, birds mid flight and ducks waddling by the shore. There was also a wooden, geometric, cut out, wall feature towards the back; the traditional waving cat statue for luck by the cash desk; and a collection of tea pot and porcelain vessels by the entrance door.
They had their soft opening in January, and by the time this media event took place in March they seemed well established and settled in. We ate at 5pm, and only after an hour the place filled up, with additional bodies waiting by the door. A part of this, their marketing team believes is due to the fact that they offer more options than other Taiwanese hot pot places. A lot more, as we were soon to find out.
Each table is set with a very unique version of the lazy susan (the moving round that sit atop of a table, that allows for the easier sharing of dishes amongst a larger part). It has a hole at its centre, like a doughnut. Here, sits your travel stove and the pot that will cook over it. The reason behind this, is they are cultivating an atmosphere, where the pot doesn’t move so everyone is expected to gather around it; hanging out and chatting with your friends.
When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
Our meal began with really good tea. A rich and full bodied brew that reminded me of the roasted milk teas you get from bubble tea places; just without the cream, sugar, and/or pearls. Although, you wouldn’t necessarily want to pair it with the very flavourful dishes to come. This tea is best sipped before or after a meal, on its own.
Instead, they brew and bottle their own line of drinks, which is sold exclusively to “JiangHu” customers. They do come in bottles that are perfect for easy take-away. Although the staff strongly suggest that you do not reuse these bottles, as they are only good the one time use. And it comes with the warning that since these juices are made fresh with all natural ingredients, their shelf life is shorter. They currently only offer three flavours, but are looking to add more. A “plum and guava” that includes the salty dried snack plums in the drink itself. Like the treat, this drink is sweet and salty, but with a tropical flavour from the guava. The “cold brew black tea” with winter melon was my favourite. It is made with a special type of black tea, giving it a nice balance to the sweeter melon syrup. And the last drink was the lightest of the three, more like chilled tea then juice: “Four seasons green tea”. Overall each beverage was refreshing, ideal to cleanse the palette with during and after the dinner below.
Today we got to try two of their four different signature hot pot flavours. These were some of the tastiest broths I have ever enjoyed. Whereas when you order regular hotpot, if you are like me, you fish out all the ingredients, eating all you can, and then leaving all the liquid behind. Here, the soup-broth is the best part. It isn’t all you can eat, but you get your value from being able to enjoy the pot several different ways, and over and over again as left overs to boot.
The Taiwanese lamb pot is one of their signatures, a thick and rich broth boiled with frozen tofu, Taiwanese tofu skin, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Taiwanese cabbage, New Zealand lamb, Chinese herbs, and cilantro. This broth was so good that I insisted on doggy bagging it and having it as lunch for days. First it is served as is, like a soup with tender chunks of lamb. Once all scooped up, more stock gets add to the broth, and this now becomes your new hot pot base. To it, you add all the frozen and raw hot pot ingredients you’ve ordered as any add ons. The only thing I would have done differently is to serve it with noodles, as they would have easily soaked up all that great sauce; and that is exactly what did with my leftover tub. In conclusion, this is quite possibility my new favourite hot pot, so flavourful it didn’t need any of the sauces below.
Although each service does come with a platter of six herbs and oil, and if i did use them I could make my own mix of chilli, cilantro, green onion, soy sauce, and fresh ground garlic. For the lamb hot pot above, it was recommended that we use their fermented tofu with bean paste, for dipping in to.
Next we had their “Rice wine chicken pot”, which is certainty the most exciting hotpot I have ever been introduced to. This broth too is pre-made, brought out with veggies and herbs ready to be boiled, with a serving of raw chicken on the side. The pot is boiled half way, more broth is added and boiled down again, in order to deepen the flavour. Next the free range chicken is added in, and the whole pot is torched. The wine burns to further the essence. You allow the flames to run its course, flickering until it dies down. If you decide to try more than one hot pot during your visit, I suggest you start with this one. It is a lot more mild compared to the lamb above. This would make a great warming start, and a great base to build your hot pot from. After we drank some soup and ate the chicken, we added additional ingredients to the boil.
The “Handmade meat paste platter” was especially impressive. A pork and black truffle paste, cuttle fish with tobiko on top, and a lamb with rosemary mixture, all spread into a special bamboo tube. Taking hold of one of these tubes and using the special scooper provided, you flick chunks into the boiling water. They eventually firm up to form irregularly shaped balls. Such meat balls in hot pot are my favourite, so to have them fresh here was a real treat.
Your standard, thinly sliced cuts of meat curled up for presentation value. This is their New Zealand lamb add on, each curl cooked quickly in the hot pot.
There was a good assortment of mushrooms, greens, and root vegetables in the “Assorted veggie platter”. This is a good add-on base for your hot pot. They also had more traditional ingredients like lamb heart, tripe, and kidney. And plenty of seafood and vegetables that rivals other hot pot place. The following is a list of the more unique ingredients that they have available. Bamboo pith, crown daisy, white tiger prawns, abalone, live clams, fish maw, and sea cucumber. Mind you, you do pay for each item, so the more luxurious it is, the more it will cost you.
But for those not wanting the extra labour of cooking for yourself at a restaurant, they also have small dishes you can order to share. They called these their “Taiwanese wok creations”. We tried a few of their more popular ones below.
“Taiwanese burgers”. The white bun was a regular flour bao, the orange: pumpkin. The latter was called “tiger skin” because of its patterning: black streaks in the yellowish dough. Flavour-wise, I couldn’t really taste a difference; if there was one, it was mild. Both buns were filled with braised pork belly, cilantro, peanut powder, pickled vegetable, and their house made plum sauce. The pork belly was certainly the highlight of each “pocket”, it was marinated with a sweet and savoury flavour, and the meat was so tender that it practically melted in your mouth. Not to mention there was enough of it from “burger” tip to tip.
The “Taiwanese satay with lamb” is a traditional Taiwanese dish. It is prepared purposefully strong with bold flavours and spice, making it a great accompaniment to beer.
The “Deep fried chicken nuggets” was your classic Taiwanese appetizer. Peppery chicken pieces that is easy to pop into your mouth. Here, an order also comes with sweet potato fries, deep fried long beans, and crispy basil for some variety. It all paired nicely together making the dish a more complete order.
Out of all the wok cooked dishes, this was everyone’s favourite. Tender slices of pork neck, with some nice grilling on its edges. Served with a mild house made miso sauce for dipping.
This was another impressive dish that stole everyone’s attention as soon as it arrived. I have seen rice served as pyramids before, but never one this tall and this erect. “Sergestid shrimp fried rice” with dried cherry blossoms and mixed vegetable. I liked the texture of the rice the most, it was like every grain of rice was perfectly fried and made crispy with a nice shrimpy taste.
Their “Deep fried squid” had more breading their your average calamari. Paired with the shrimp chips, you had yourself a patter of crispy and chewy textures to maw over.
This was my first time trying “Octopus beaks”, though with their heavy coating in breading you couldn’t exactly tell what it is you were having. The “beak balls” offerred crunch and are most fragrant with some of the tiny shrimp, peanuts, and garlic shoot present in each bite. You really needed all ingredients together in order to balance out all the dominant flavours. The peanuts were an especially good base for the spiciness of the dish.
“Three Cup chicken” is another traditional Taiwanese dish. Chicken, rice wine, sesame oil, and soya sauce. But in their version, boneless chicken and chicken soft bone (the cartilage part between the breast) is used instead of the traditional chicken bone-in thigh meat. They do this to get the same textures, but consider etiquette. To have this, is to not have to worry about spitting out bones in between bites.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Truly a unique hotpot place, one worth driving to from Burnaby to Richmond. They offer traditional Taiwanese cuisine with the pageantry and flare that any “gangster” would appreciate. While providing modern twists and a modern setting that anyone familiar with Taiwanese cuisines could appreciate. A great meal and a new experience to gather a few friends together to share. Don’t deny your cravings.
100-7911 Alderbridge Way, Richmond BC