According to the Chinese calendar, this year's November 7 marks the day we 立冬 (lìdōng)—officially enter winter—and along with this, Chinese diets will start shifting to include more warming, winter-focused foods. This practice is based on a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) known as Food Therapy, where ingredients are said to contain different energetic properties like "hot" or "cold" and are eaten at seasonally appropriate times.
Lamb hot pot is one such dish. It is classified as "hot" and is believed to help warm the body from within while improving immunity and nourishing qi. It's said to be especially good for the kidneys as well as our blood circulation, which supposedly becomes sluggish in the colder months. Regardless of the purported health benefits, lamb hot pot is a delicious winter delicacy, and Dong Lai Shun is one of best places in town for a taste.
Your first order of business is to pick a soup base. There's a wide variety at Dong Lai Shun, but if it's your first visit, the Hundred-Years Traditional Pot is a good place to start. It's a clear, light broth that doesn't jostle for space on your tastebuds, allowing the natural flavors of your dipping ingredients to shine through. You can always jazz things up with their sauces; both garlic with sesame oil (RMB10) and traditional sesame (RMB10) are classic, crowd favorites.
Dong Lai Shun's hot pots come served in colorful, dome-shaped pots typically associated with northern-style huoguo—they're called cloissonné enamel pots—kept heated either atop an electrical stove or via charcoal. The latter (RMB108) is a tiny bit more expensive, but it's certainly more atmospheric.
From there, it's just a process of picking and choosing from a variety of meats, vegetables, and sauces. Popular choices include shavings of the meat found just above a lamb's ribs (Ribs of Sheep, RMB68/serving) and traditional hand-cut lamb neck (RMB70/serving). They have beef and seafood options too, as well as mixed vegetables and mushroom platters. End with a serving of their Hand-made Noodles (RMB12). It's springy and bouncy and goes well with a broth that has been flavored by all the dunking you did with your meat and vegetables.
Non-hot pot offerings like Traditional Shis Kebabs (RMB12/skewer) and Tanghulu (candied hawthorn stick, RMB5/skewer) are worth a try as well. They also do a really good zhajiangmian (RMB16).
What: Dong Lai Shun
Where: Multiple locations; 5/F 66 Nanjing Dong Lu (near Sichuan Zhong Lu) 南京东路66号5楼 (近四川中路)
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