In winter, our lips become completely numb after countless attempts to warm ourselves up from the inside out by dipping our chopsticks into Sichuan-style hotpots around town. By the time February rolls around, we’re usually longing for feeling in both our mouths and extremities to return, so we decided to sample the decidedly less mala hotpot specialties of other regions for a winter pick-me-up.
What: Japanese style shabu shabu
Where: 1720 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Wuxing Lu. Tel: 6471 7657
Why: You like your hotpot with a side of Asahi
Gokohai has a handful of shabu shabu joints around town, and we headed to the Huaihai Lu branch that announces its presence along the western edge of the major thoroughfare with its blue noren curtains and red chochin lanterns. The cacophony of languages on display at the bustling Nipponese hotpot joint demonstrates that Gokohai’s popularity transcends national borders, and rightfully so.
The broth at Gokohai tastes clean – a sense buffeted by the fact you have your own individual pot for dipping raw meat and veggies. Loaded with red dates, goji berries, seaweed, fresh ginger and other medicinal ingredients, the soup adds few flavours and just a hint of spice, but shabu shabu is supposed to be as bland as the ‘90s pop ballads playing on the overhead KTV. The equally subtle dipping sauce, a table-made combination of vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, garlic, daikon radish, pickled ginger and lemon, is designed to let the raw ingredients shine, which they do, brilliantly, at Gokohai.
The Japanese are renowned for the dedication to freshness, a trait Gokohai takes to heart. Volcano-shaped heaps of lean beef arrive crisply-pink before being dunked into the boiling broth. Plates of shell-on shrimp boast a firm and glossy appearance, the tell-tale sign these crustaceans had been freshly plucked from the sea. Even the out-of-season produce was rich in colour and flavour.
Ordering a la carte is always the best option if you have specific ingredients in mind, but Gokohai’s RMB 88 all-you-can-eat deal will guarantee that non-picky eaters leave satisfied, not to mention a little tipsy as draft Asahi only adds RMB 5 to the bill per glass.
This article was originally written by Jamie as a review series for the February 2011 edition of Shanghai TALK. If you’re interested in learning more about regional Chinese cuisine, join UnTour for our special Shanghai Night Eats culinary tour or learn how to make your own food with our special Chinese Cooking Class. You’ll learn the ins and outs of Shanghai’s traditional cuisine and leave with unbeatable recipes and unforgettable memories.