I got to Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot after Short arrived. I usually do come in second place on arrival times. Short is more than punctual. She is habitually early. So because of that and, for some reason, most of the stuff we do seems to be in the west end of Toronto and I live in the east, I am the one who arrives last. Traffic is completely unpredictable but I’m coming to terms with it. I’ve decided to leave :15 earlier than I normally would and it seems to be working. That’s my advice for getting anywhere in Toronto. ALWAYS leave i5 to 30 minutes before you think you should. It sucks.
What it meant this time was that I missed the whole spiel about what were were doing and how we were gonna do it. It seemed like there was a lot going on and the waiter was trying to get us started. Short tried to quickly bring me up to speed before he came back a second time to ask which items we wanted to order from the menu.
Mongolian Hot Pot is a cool concept that is started to trend along with other “cook it yourself” restaurants that offer up fondue, Korean bbq and Japanese shabu shabu. Hot Pot originated over 1000 years ago in Mongolia where the travelling warriors would use their metal helmets to cook a broth brimming with local ingredients for their meals along the roadside.
You do what you have to do, right?
We could have ordered the regular broth (which has a secret mix of herbs and spices) but we decided to kick it up a notch and got the spicy version that has added chili oil and peppers. I’m so glad we did. You wouldn’t think that broth alone would have that much flavour but it did! I would NOT let Short order some of the weirder stuff on the menu like tripe or pork blood. Nope. Nope. Nope. We ordered very thinly sliced beef and lamb as the protein and it arrived just as the “hot pot” was getting up to a boil.
Our waiter told us that the dipping sauce was probably the most important part of the whole shebang and he very kindly went and got us a container each of his “special mix”. Turns out it was hoisin and satay sauce. And he was right. That was the best part!
The meat was fully cooked in 1 – 2 minutes and removed using a strainer spoon. I had already spooned out a bowl full of the broth and just kept throwing ingredients into the hot pot, straining them out once they were cooked and then putting them into my broth bowl. Quite a process but well worth it.
We chose mushrooms, thick glass noodles, tofu, tofu skin (it’s a thing and it’s good!) and a bunch of other stuff to go along with our beef and lamb. I realized, after looking at the table across from us, that we probably should have ordered more veg. Oh well.
I get why the “cooking it yourself” restaurants are starting to trend. It’s really fun, interactive, and tasty. It would be a great first date spot because there is a lot of decision making to be done and tonnes of discussion about differing taste buds.
The ingredients all have differing cook times so it was a little hard to keep track of but that was all part of the fun. The broth was so flavourful that it enhanced anything you threw into it. We were full before we even knew what was happening and felt like we had just eaten a super healthy meal. It is just a giant boiling pot of soup after all.
We were offered ice cream for dessert and we both opted for green tea flavour but the waiter suggested red bean as well which I’d never tasted. Maybe just because I don’t associate beans with sweet? Well, guess what? It was fantastic!
I really loved this place and I think it would be even more fun if we brought a couple of friends with us next time. Shout out to Genghis Khan for founding the Mongols! Without you, we never would have had this eating experience. Thank you in Mongolian!