February 25th, 2009

bomb

Mongolian misadventures in lunch

After enjoying my trip to Genghis Grill in Dallas during Furry Fiesta, I wondered if there was a Mongolian BBQ restaurant here in Houston. So last night I did a quick search on Google Maps, typing in just the word "Mongolian" in hopes of getting every occurrence of "Mongolian barbecue", "Mongolian BBQ", "Mongolian grill", etc.

The only place that turned up within reasonable driving distance was a place called "Mongolian Hot Pot" on Westheimer. So I went there for lunch today.

If you know anything about Mongolian food, you probably already know what I learned upon walking in: Mongolian hot pot is not the same thing as Mongolian barbecue. With Mongolian BBQ, you walk past a buffet table, pick out your frozen meats, veggies and sauces, put them in a bowl, and hand it to a cook who fries it all up on a grill. But with Mongolian hot pot, you sit at a table with a burner or hot plate in the middle, and the waiter puts a pot of broth on it and gives you ingredients to put in and make soup.

I ordered beef, which was brought to the table in frozen sliced form like with Mongolian BBQ. I put it in the broth and watched it cook almost instantly. There were also veggies such as bok choy, flour noodles, enoki mushrooms, pieces of tofu and fish balls. I started putting them in. They were tasty, if sometimes so hot I needed to blow on them. The waiter came by every now and then and twiddled the control for the hot plate.

The placemat explains how to cook and eat hot pot. It says hot pot is "simple and fun!" Well, either I was doing it wrong, or it's actually difficult and messy. I was given a little bowl on a plate, and I tried to scoop soup out of the pot into the bowl with the ladle provided. The soup dribbled all over the table, and the noodles got slippery and kept falling out of the ladle onto the table, where they were too hot to pick up with fingers and too slippery to pick up with chopsticks. Also, there were things in the broth I wasn't supposed to eat, like slices of ginger and whole cloves of garlic and things that looked like twigs and whole nutmegs and bright orange pellets of DOOM. Of course, it was hard to keep them out of my bowl and I had to keep dumping them back in (which I wouldn't have been able to do if I were sharing the pot with someone!)

When I was done eating about an hour later, the table was a mess. Broth puddles everywhere, the placemat soaked, and torn up where I'd stabbed at it with the sticks trying to pick up those damn noodles. I don't think I'll go back there.
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