Ms. Foodie is still getting over her jet lag from our trip to Japan, and this post wasn’t going to write itself. Even after the last two weeks of non-stop Japanese foodie goodness, this meal still stands out as one of the best we’ve enjoyed lately. So, I took it upon myself to write this post.

We recently heard that the new location of Black Pearl in Homewood had Chinese hot pot. We have had this dish in Vietnam and as of this past week Japan (shabu-shabu) but so far had not found it available in the ‘Ham. We coordinated with friends of the blog Jo and Leight to come along and check it out with us.

Outside the restaurant:

We requested the hotpot menu and were quickly seated.

After careful consideration we ordered “half and half soup” which meant half “pork bone soup” and half “spicy soup.”

We also ordered the following ingredients: Beef, Lamb, Bean curd skin, Ice tofu, Squid, Fish balls, Pork balls, Lettuce, Bean noodles, Seaweed, Fish, and Taro. For “dipping sauce” condiments we ordered chile, garlic, and sesame paste.

Here is the hotpot menu:

Our server suggested that for 4 people, we could order hot pot for 2 (a total of 6 meats and 6 vegetables). This made our meal really affordable.

For those that are unfamiliar hotpot is a stew cooked DIY style fresh at your table in a simmering stock. It is served in many variations throughout Asia.

Jo and Leight, being experienced “hotpotters”, gave us some really great tips on when to add ingredients and how to cook them. For example, it’s ok to start with one ingredient at a time when you are just getting the feel for it, but you can also put ingredients such as tofu and taro that need longer to cook in first to ensure you have a varied assortment of items ready to consume at roughly the same time. They showed us that the big chop sticks were for gently placing ingredients in the hot broth without splashing and arranging the sliced ingredients so that the broth can cook both sides at once. There are also wire spoons for removing perfectly cooked items to cool on serving plates and a traditional ladle for placing broth into your personal bowl. Simply place the ingredients of your choosing that are cooked with some broth and some of the included fresh herbs and spices to taste and your personal hotpot is ready to eat.

Both broths had great flavor with the spicy broth being milder than expected for some but equally delicious. For those that are curious get half and half as we did and you may be able to choose a favorite. (We couldn’t…they were both delicious.)

Don’t forget to use the condiments (bottom of the picture):
All the things we ordered:

The beef was cooked medium and remained very juicy and the fish cooked quickly and was nice and light. “Bean curd skin” or “tofu skin” is skin collected off of the top of boiling soy milk. Those that enjoy tofu will love it. It holds up great while being cooked in the soup as does the “ice tofu” which is tofu that is frozen so that it will hold up well when boiled. Taro is a tuber that tastes somewhat like a slightly starchier version of a western potato. It can get a bit crumbly but is easy to fish out with the wire spoons and a great counterpoint to the veggies and proteins that we had chosen. The seaweed tasted very fresh and light. It’s more my thing than Ms. Foodie’s, but we both loved it. If you are curious to try it this is a great place to do so and soups or stews are a great way to enjoy seaweed. The squid had a great flavor and fresh texture to it and was enjoyed by all.

Some of the food in the pot:

Not sure if these sticky sweet taro dessert cakes usually come with hotpot or not, (they just sort of appeared at the end of our meal) but they were chewy gooey and darn good!

In poking fun at a large national fondue chain I have has often said “if they are asking us to cook it ourselves, there better be a pretty good reason”. (#jokingnotjoking) Well, after our experience with the authentic Chinese version available at Black Pearl Homewood we can say with confidence that the reason is clear. The fresh and subtle flavors of meat and vegetables perfectly cooked in a delicious broth is well worth the effort and makes for a really fun dining experience with friends.

Black Pearl is located at 180 State Farm Parkway and is open 7 days a week.