Review — Happy Hot Pot, Glasgow

Pick and mix for adults is a thing!

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“YES!” responds the poker-faced gentleman behind the counter. This was fantastic news — my veggie pal had asked if their broth was vegetarian. And apparently it is. Although I’d read somewhere that Taiwanese hot pot was made with chicken bones, and then somewhere else that, sometimes, big boned pigs like to get involved. On occasion they even use both kinds. And whilst vegetarian broths also exist, it literally says chicken above the window. So I double check.

“YES!” he says. “Yes, yes, chicken broth!” Now I’m confused because as far as I’ve been made aware, a chicken is not a vegetable — but then again the world is changing very fast. On this occasion we decide to leave and look for somewhere else to have lunch.

I then forget about this place until I watch one of those food programmes on Netflix. A celebrity chef was travelling across the orient and eating delicious soupy things. It made me hungry for a delicious soupy thing myself. There were essentials in the kitchen; bread, cheese, eggs, but my mouth had wanderlust and a yearning for a piercing bowl of something hot, spicy and extremely savoury.

It is, however, 9:30pm and a 20 minute walk away. So I search for it’s opening times. But I haven’t a clue what it’s actually called. Neither do most people. It’s relatively new, y’see. The words ‘Taiwan Chicken Chop Happy Hot Pot’ hide among some Mandarin calligraphy on the sign outside, but I think that’s just a loose description of what they sell instead of the name of the restaurant, and anyway, according to Google, it doesn’t exist. Instagram says no and Facebook just laughs at me. Trip Advisor has heard of Happy Hot Pot, but it’s in Taiwan. And I’m very much in Glasgow.

At this stage I’ve decided I’m an undercover investigative reporter, so track down its address via an abandoned website from the previous venture on the same location. Does this address help me unearth any information? It absolutely does not. Is this place real? Have I dreamt it? I grab my coat, hat, and leave the house, finally arriving at what is a very real place at 9:50pm. The lights are on and plenty of costumers are slurping on big bowls of spicy hot pot. Success!

“Are you open?” I ask the same gentlemen who I remember from last time. “YES!” he responds. I skip inside with a smile on my face. “NO!” says the man, “YES, we are not open now! NO!!!” Conflicting messages. I make a mental note never to ask this man a question again; and back to home I go, with the view to finally try the umami, salty depths of this much anticipated hot-pot at lunchtime tomorrow.

And here we are. Today is now ‘lunchtime tomorrow’ and I’m apprehensively staring at an enormous fridge — shelves brimming with unlabelled meat, seafood, vegetables, and noodles. The idea here is to take what your soul desires and put it in a plastic basin, like a pick n’ mix. But I seem to be the only first-timer here. And people are pushing and shoving me out the way like a timid kid in one of those American high school corridors. I’m also the only one without the faintest idea what these wee round things are. Everyone seems to be going for them.

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“Excuse me, what are these little round things?” I ask a customer who appears to know what she’s doing. She’s rattling through the fridge with the urgency of a supermarket sweep contestant. But my question has startled her, and after scratching her head and pondering an answer, she stares at me, deep into the middle of my face, and says, “Balls ”.

Well I can see that they’re balls, mate, but what kind of balls are they? I’d happily give them a chance although I don’t eat pork and there’s no guarantee that they’re not. Later on I learn that they were most likely chicken or fish balls — but right now I stick to the produce I’m familiar with; taking a large plastic bowl and sliding into it some prawns, mussels, mushrooms, pak choi, tofu, thin noodles, thick noodles, curly noodles.

Whilst there’s an abundance of cool and unusual looking produce, this may not be the ideal restaurant for those with complex dietary requirements. For a start, there aren’t any English descriptions on display. Whilst you’ll know what the majority of these things are, I haven’t a clue whether this beige coloured cube is a vegetable or a chunk of chicken. Not again! We’re also using the same set of tongs for all of the ingredients on display, which may be risky if you have an allergy.

But let’s cut to the chase: once you’ve got a bowl full of delicious things, you go to the counter where your bowl is weighed. You then pay what you weigh — which here isn’t very much at all. £9.70? For all these high quality ingredients? That’s a bargain. A bowl of something similar in Wagamama’s will set you back around £13 and it won’t be anywhere near as good. They then ask you if you want mild or spicy soup, you get a keyring with a number on it, and you try to find a seat whilst the masters in the kitchen turn your raw ingredients into a piping hot pot.

This magnificent thing then arrives at my table. Vegetables, meats and fish bathe in a dark, rich, golden broth. It’s steaming, spicy, savoury tang vents upwards from the bowl, right up my nostrils and viscerally into every crevice and crack in my body. I can taste garlic behind my eyeballs. And I’m not at all complaining. It smells phenomenal. I grab the wooden ladle and take one big slurp. There’s a chance this might just be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in Glasgow. Hot, firey, chickeny juices are splattering across the table. Pearls of sweat drip from my forehead. What’s this place called? Dunno. What am I actually eating? I can’t say for certain. But I love it very, very much. Ideally I’d be enjoying this in a dark room where nobody can see the embarrassing mess I’m making — but you can’t have it all.

Where is it and what’s it like?

What did you have?

How was the service?

What did it cost?

The verdict?

Written by

Radio and telly presenter. Columnist. Documentary junkie. Specialise in being silly but do news-y things as well.

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