Claypot Hotpot: Difference In The Broth, Free Range Chicken and Meat Balls

Sorry, I went offline the past few days. I had been spending the last few days revamping the home computer setups after one of the off-line hard disks crashed on Christmas Day. Hehehe … it was perfect timing because it gave me an excuse to finally do the right thing — create a NAS (Network-attached Storage). With four computers at home, the NAS will simplify a lot of the stuff we do on the computer. So we went to line up on Boxing Day at Memory Express and got myself 6TB RAID-5 unit. This is awesome because RAID-5 is “supposed” to be redundant … it can continue to work even if one hard disk crashed.

So yeah, I had been fiddling around the re-organizing everything and it’s almost done. That had been what I had largely been up to … and also eating out! Like in this restaurant …

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I heard about it from Raymond on Facebook. He is one of my resources for finding new places because he sure knows his food. So when I saw the update from him about the new hot pot place and when I later learn that it was on Richmond’s glutton street (Alexandra Road), I already knew where he was talking about.

The Claypot Hot Pot Restaurant had been in this location for many years but for the past year or so it closed. They have now reopened. It is under a new management and backed by a strong name in the Chinese food industry. The new management had chosen to retain the English name (Claypot Hot Pot) but the Chinese name is new.

In addition they tagged on “And BBQ” to the name too if you noticed. Unfortunately they do not offer BBQ at this time. The manager told us that they wanted to focus on hot pot for now and will offer BBQ later on. Anyway, we were there just days after they had re-opened.

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I like what they had done to this place. It is modern and shiny. It is certainly one of the more upscale looking hot pot restaurants around.

The dining hall is large. It even has a two table glass-walled party room at the end of the dining hall.

We were there early at 5PM, just as they had opened for dinner. The restaurant was empty at that time and we were surprised when the manager, who introduced himself as the owner, asked us if we had reservation. I think he was in auto-mode and simply blurted out the question. He later said that a reservation is not necessary as it is early and he expects us to be out by 7PM. That is not a problem for us. To us, two hours is more than enough time for hot pot.

The crowd trickled in at 6PM and by the time we were about to leave at 7PM, the entire restaurant was packed. I was thinking that this restaurant will do well considering that they had just re-opened for a few days and yet word is out so fast.

Service is very good. It was attentive and they come to clear the empty dishes very fast (I hate cluttered tables). They also come by very fast to refill the soup and drinks too, without us asking for them.

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I like the manager. He is friendly and goes around the whole evening socializing with the customers. He connects with people well.

He told me that he had taken over this place to try to see if he can make a difference. Their specialty is the free range chicken and meatballs (click on image above if you can’t read it clearly). Now, chicken is not something that is common in hot pots but this restaurant is backed by a big supplier of premium free range chicken which is famous in Vancouver (Wingtat).

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Likewise, click on the two menu pages above to show in larger size.

The AYCE hot pot is $19 per adult. In the future, they will offer BBQ in addition to the hot pot for $4 more.

I like the menu in many respect. For one, they do not ding you for the extras as much as some places where the condiments, sauces and drinks does drive up the cost of the meal.

I also like the variety of soup bases they have. They are $10 or $7 per pot. If you see the left page of the menu above, the first three soup bases are single soup while item #4 is the two-soup combo where you can only choose items #5 and below. Too bad. I so wanted to have a combo with one of their specialty soups.

There are a lot of varieties in the soup bases, some of which we had not seen before in other places.

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Be careful about the quantity you order here. A “one” order is what you see above. So, don’t go about penciling one for each person or else you will end up with way too much of the same type.

So, if you scan just the section on meat alone (which has 11 items), you can imagine how much food that it is if you just pencil “1” on each of the item. So think about it, they also have:

  • 8 items under seafood
  • 12 items under meatballs
  • 14 items under side dishes
  • 12 items under vegetable
  • 8 items under inards
  • 6 items under dumplings and wonton
  • 7 items under cooked food and dessert

So, there is no way that … a table of four would be able to order one of each and yet finish it all.

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Gas stoves is so rare in Vancouver but here they use gas stoves. They kept this burning for the whole time without having to adjust the flame. Perhaps that is why they came by to fill the soup so often. I noticed that there are more burn on the sides of the hot pot with gas then if they uses the more modern glass tops.

Anyone know of the merits of gas over electric, if any at all?

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It was hard deciding what soup base we wanted. As creatures of habit, we wanted a dual pot with one spicy and one non-spicy. The manager talked us into getting their #1 item which is the House Special Broth ($10). This hot pot comes free with half a free range chicken given that they are a supplier of the chicken.

So we got that.

This hot pot restaurant is a Cantonese style hot pot place. It is evident from the herbal broth which has dates, goji berries, dong gwei, longan, etc. The soup is tasty as it is and we know that it will get tastier as we do more cooking in it.

We were asking ourselves if they have MSG in the pot. Can you really tell if there is MSG by tasting it? We can’t. We only know if there is MSG from the aftermath thirst that follows. Anyway, want to tell you that we did not feel thirsty after the meal.

When I walked around the restaurant on the way to the washroom, I saw that most people ordered the single pot.

Anyway, one observation … they call themselves claypot hot pot but they don’t use claypot here. LOL!

BTW, slightly off topic. I recall hearing that there is one restaurant in Vancouver which offers three combo soup base. I can’t recall where it is. Does anyone know?

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The sauces are free. It is nothing fancy. They are soy sauce, BBQ sauce and peanut sauce but I appreciate the fact it’s free. Strange but I love the sweetish soy sauce a lot. It went very well with the meats which we got a lot of.

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The extra condiments are 50 cents each which I thought is very good. Some customers are greedy for this and I think that the 50 cents are not really for profit but more to control wastages. They gave us quite a generous amount of it.

Some places charges up to $1.50 each. Can you believe it?

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The drinks are $1 and it is all you can drink. I like that. Even if they charged $1 for each glass, I would not have batted an eyelid but all you can drink is something else.

There are only three choices: Coke, 7-Up and Plum Juice. Mum and dad has plum juice while Nanzaro had Coke. So Nanzaro had a great time … for once, he had three cans of Coke.

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The table setting … they have each of us two pairs of chopsticks. One for picking from the hot pot (the red one) and another disposable one which is meant for personal use. We did not bother … too much hassle! We just use one chopstick.

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Our style of eating hot pot is not to throw a few items into the pot and fish out whatever we find. Instead we prefer to cook  each item by itself using the wire ladle. Sure it takes longer but hot pot is a social meal. It is supposed to take time and a good time to chat.

Since we have two third meats, we needed to monitor the cooking. You just need to make sure that the food is cooked right because over cooking the meat will make it real tough and it will ruin it.

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That is part of the spread we had. All in all there were 11 plates of meats. LOL!

We were a bit worried when we saw how big each plate was but we eventually managed to finish them all. It is a good thing we did not order much of the other stuff or else we are in trouble.

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The meat dishes are pretty good. Some of them are kind of tough and lack of marbling. I like the pork butt, the lamb shoulder, pork belly.

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The meat came in individual plates while the other stuff came in a platter.

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Their meatballs are supposed to be good, specifically the simple beef, pork and chicken. So we got that and did not get the others. There are nine other types of meatballs.

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The meatballs were just so-so. It was slightly different. For instance, the beef balls were firmer than others we had tried to the point it was almost chewy. The fish ball on the other hand was springy and smooth which we like a lot. The chicken meat ball was just so-so.

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The half free range chicken was free and came with the broth we chosed. Only two of the twelve available broths have this free.

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It was pretty good. We cooked the chicken first so that we can have a clean taste of it. We wish there are more chicken. It takes longer for this to cook, unlike the sliced meats and as long as you monitor it closely, it will come out great. Just make sure you don’t over cook this.

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We can’t rave enough of this soup we had. We actually had several bowls of this.

You know, next time we should take samples of the broth at various point of the cooking and taste properly the difference as it undergoes cooking. That will work because we always cook the meat first, then the seafood and then the rest last.

Yeah, we’ll do that next time.

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To me this one is kind of weird. This is diced beef and is supposed to be the best beef, “siu fei ngao” which means little fat cow. It was chewy and hard.

No we did not like it. We took a couple of bites and left it untouched after that.

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They have a small range of cooked food and we got some of them. We had Spicy Beef Tripe, Tendon and Brisket. It was just alright.

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The other cooked food is the deep fried fish skin. It was tasteless and we thought they had forgotten to add salt or something to it. And there were too much flour coating. Not good. We usually love this but they did it wrong that day, I guess.

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Nanzaro’s favourite is this plate of minced fish dumpling, , lamb dumpling and regular dumpling. By the time we got to this, I was already too stuffed to really enjoy anything else.

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We got the only green colored food that Nanzaro will take, spinach. This cooks very fast and to us it is a good palate cleanser.

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When we asked the manager for the bill, he insisted that he brings desserts and said leave it to him. He personally brought the lychee jello and mango pudding. As far as I remember, not many hot pot places serve dessert.

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The Claypot Hot Pot restaurant accepts credit card which is not surprising seeing that a meal of hot pot is more expensive than other Chinese food.

All in all, it was a good meal with a lot of wins in some areas (particularly the soup, the chicken, the prices). It has some ways to go to be the best but given time, maybe they will improve on each of the dishes.

Claypot Hotpot and B.B.Q. on Urbanspoon

Business Hour: 5pm to 12am

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. I think the 3-pot place (“三國演義”鍋底)is New Concept on Westminster Hwy.

    1. Or BG & BB’s “4 Burner Palace”, LOL !

      1. Our record was 5 burners plus a electric grill!!! LOL!!!

        1. Hi BuddhaGirl: Gosh! 5 burners? That must have heated up the room like crazy … and hehehe … not to mention the fire hazard 5x! BTW, how many people did you serve to need 5 burners? Whew! 🙂 Ben

          1. LOL! Well, we usually have 2 to 4 people per burner…the time when we did the 5 burners we had 15 or 16…can’t remember…hahahaha

    2. Hi BuddhaGirl: You rock. I am so there already! 🙂 Ben

  2. “They are soy sauce, BBQ sauce and peanut sauce but I appreciate the fact it’s free.”

    Ben – I presume the BBQ sauce you mentioned is Chinese “sha-cha” sauce (沙茶醬).

    From Wiki:
    “Shacha sauce is also known as “Sa-Te” sauce in the Hokkien dialect. Sa-Te is completely different from the peanut-based Satay sauce popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.”

    I LOVE shacha sauce, it goes with everything from hot potting, to boiled dumplings, noodles in soup, etc !

    1. yups!!! sacha or sa-te is 沙茶醬 and its also good for stir-fry or steaming…i always laugh when i see menus that cannot differentiate between it and satay sauce…hahahaha!

      1. Hi BuddhaGirl: It is just the Fujian pronunciation of the Sha-cha sauce that only the Taiwanese can mistaken it for satay. Are there a lot of menus that cannot differentiate satay with sha cha sauces? Can you name some of them? Ben

        1. yea…really only fujian-speaking (or Taiwanese-speaking…since it’s pretty much the same) would be confused of it…

          Can’t think on top of my head, but I am sure many out there has encounter the same as me…and scratching their heads thinking “whatta”?!?! LOL!

          1. Actually, I just looked thru some of the menuS I have at home…hahaha…quite a bit actually, Fu Lin Hot Pot in Coquitlam, Cattle, Grand Honor, and even Top Gun in Crystal Mall used the word “satay”…hahahaha!

          2. Hi Buddha Girl:

            I am trying to get to the bottom of this. The only menu I could get hold of is the one from Grand Honour. See http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/180741?p=0

            In that menu, the second item in Soup Base section is Satay and the Chinese word (IINM) is sah-teh, not sah cha. That kind of make sense because it is a satay soup base, whereas in this post I am talking about the BBQ sauce (fine, sha cha sauce). Maybe the other menus are what you said it is but for Grand Honour, I just don’t see it that way. Can you take a look and let me know? 🙂

            Ben

          3. The menu I have for Grand Honor is the same one on urbanspoon. When my friend and I went there back then, she ordered the “satay” broth while I ordered the spicy…their “satay” is basically the “sa-cha” soup broth…

          4. BTW, Buddha Girl, do you speak Fujian? Both my parents are Fujian and so yeah, I have Fujian blood in me. Ben

          5. I am half fujian blood…hahaha…my mom’s origin goes back to Fujian, even though she was born in Taiwan…I understand the dialect but can’t really speak it…

    2. Hi LotusRapper: Yeah, the English name for the sha-cha sauce is, believe it or not, BBQ Sauce. See pix of the sha-cha sauce in this post: http://chowtimes.com/2006/01/06/steamboat/ or this http://goo.gl/J0T4m for a clearer view. I am not sure how anyone could mistaken the BBQ Sauce/Sha-Cha sauce for satay sauce from Malaysia because they are vastly different. Ben

      1. Weird indeed. In Mandarin it’s “sa-cha jiang” or as the Chinese words on the big can in your first link says (literally) “sand tea sauce”. But the bad English translation calls it “barbecue”.

        Although Wiki does reference it as a barbecue spice rub:

        “The ingredient has multiple uses:
        * as a base for soups
        * as a rub for barbecued meats
        * as a seasoning for stir fry dishes
        * as a component for dipping sauces, for example as used in hot pot meals”

        1. Hehehe … don’t sue me man. I just follow the name on the top branded can. As a matter of fact we also have another brand of sha cha sauce at home and the English name is also Barbeque Sauce. Go figure. 🙂 Ben

          1. There’s this “Cow Head Brand” (Chinese) which is commonly found:

            http://www.esacademic.com/pictures/eswiki/83/Shacha_sauce.jpg

            Then there’s this other “Tong Niou Brand”:

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_2uHwpSJNMEg/TDPs-wjhrLI/AAAAAAAAHR0/8-deV1mTZmE/s1600/IMG_3522.JPGed.JPG

            And two offenders of mislabeling:

            1) Kim Lan:
            http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_WxAvgn5aGFM/SwDaH-ftmoI/AAAAAAAACe8/_BOlnjmJWE0/s200/Shacha3.JPG

            2) http://www.ning-chi.com.tw/images/can_barbecue.jpg

            Regardless of what the English label is, make sure the Chinese says “沙茶”

  3. I think they use gas burners so that they can also be used in barbq.

    1. Hi Crispy: You know what? You could be right! BTW, we went to the new Filipino Bakery today quite by accident. They had opened for dinner for the first time today. Food is pretty good too. Ben

      1. Hi Ben, thanks for the heads up on the new Filipino bakery/restaurant in Park Road. I’ve been keeping an eye on it waiting for it to open. It is actually run by a friend from our Catholic church. Too bad they missed the Christmas rush. I heard there was a delay on the city hall side in issuing their permit. Their website is up but there’s nothing there yet. http://www.kumare.ca

    2. I believe the gas burners were inherited from the very 1st owner Sung Tung Kee Hotpot as the gaslines are not cheap to replace. Credit goes to the present owner for a good revamping job with the hoods and now the establishment has a modern look.

  4. Hahaha I wonder why they are called Claypot…even their Chinese name doesn’t have Claypot in it…

    1. Their Chinese name is actually “Farm Hot Pot”, LOL !

  5. A thorough review as usual, Ben. Your writeups are always a great read.

    I believe the purpose of having two pairs of chopsticks per person is to have one for eating and one for picking up/cooking raw food (to prevent accidental food poisoning). Many a time, I would see people picking up raw meat with their chopsticks, putting the meat into the pot, and then using that same pair of chopsticks to eat what’s in their bowl – the makings of an upset stomach. The secondary purpose of having two pairs of chopsticks would be for sanitary reasons (e.g. if you are having hot pot with people that you don’t know very well).

    To sort of add to the 沙茶 sauce discussion, the best that I’ve had was at Happy Shabu Shabu in Continental Plaza. It was flavourful and uber creamy (yes, creamy, not sandy like the usual storebought kind), so good that I would spoon it up and eat it by itself! I was told by a waitress there that they make it in-house. Granted, I haven’t been back to that restaurant for over a year so I don’t know what the sauce is like now, but I will always remember that sauce. Ah…

  6. THEY HAVE AWESOME WINGS!! but i see u didn’t try hehe.

  7. When they add the BBQ component to this restaurant, any idea what they will be doing(sort of like Korean BBQ)?

    You said their drinks is all you can drink for $1, & your son Nanzaro had 3 cans of Coke. 3 cans of soda for a $1(that’s very cheap costing at a restaurant).

    1. Hi WS: I have no idea about the BBQ component. The restaurant was not setup for that when we were there. As for the drinks, the restaurant will not lose anything if people drink up to 3 cans because you could easily get 3 cans for $1 in many places. On the other hand, I felt that if the customer drinks too much, they will have less room for food. I could be wrong … but I think that is the motivation for hot pot restaurants for offering cheap drinks. Ben

  8. Ben thats right regarding cheap drinks,I was talking to a manager in Fish on Rice a AYCE place which gives free pop,It is much cheaper to fill a guest with pop then Sushi,Thats why they serve the drinks first before they serve your food and refill pop frequently

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