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May 16, 2018

Little Sheep: Hot Pot. Good Times.

The origins of Mongolian hot pot are thought to date back about 1,000 years to the Jin Dynasty in China, when Mongol horsemen rode across the steppe and into Northern China.

Legend has it that the Mongol warriors used their metal helmets as pots, placing them directly into hot embers to simmer chunks of meat and vegetables in water. As they moved across China, they added the local ingredients to flavor their stew. Eventually, the Mongols were forced out of China, but their hot pot style of cooking took root across the land, evolving with the ingredients found in each region.

Today, hot pot embodies the joy of eating an abundance of fresh ingredients with friends and family in a lighthearted, social atmosphere. Little Sheep, anchoring the upper level at Ward Centre, brings the flavors and culture of Inner Mongolia to Honolulu. The secret to Little Sheep's Hawai'i hot pot renaissance is their distinctive broth—two broths actually—the House Original Broth and the House Spicy Broth. The steaming, aromatic mixture is made from scratch daily. Taking roughly eight hours per batch to bring all the flavors together, the broth is seasoned with 36 ingredients, including goji berries, jujubes, black cardamom pods, ginseng and an assortment of herbs. And, as opposed to a warrior's helmet, the broth here is served in large metal pots, perfect for tabletop cooking.

Did we mention that hot pot is best enjoyed with a crew? With a table full of friends, and a bowl of goodness bubbling before you the hot pot nosh can begin. Now, if you're new to the hot pot game, there are a few basics to keep in mind: First, you order the broth. This will be the easiest choice all night—House Original, House Spicy (you can order to your desired level of heat), and Half & Half, which is a single-partitioned metal pot with Original on one side and Spicy on the other. To boot, vegetarians will rejoice as the restaurant also offers a wide variety of plant-based alternatives as well, making hot pot a smart choice no matter the palette.

Next, you're going to order some protein and vegetables to cook in the broth. Little Sheep offers fish fillet, scallops, tiger prawns, fish balls, and thin-sliced meats like Kurobuta pork, premium lamb shoulder, and supreme angus beef. Next, order a bevy of veggies. Enoki and oyster mushrooms, sponge tofu, and baby bok choy are local favorites. Little Sheep recommends the Half & Half soup base paired with the all-natural, premium lamb for newcomers.

While you're waiting for the food to arrive, de-table and head over to the sauces and sides bar. Make a few dipping sauces with your own unique mixture of shoyu, minced garlic, cilantro, sesame oil, vinegar, and crushed chilies. The raw ingredients arrive artfully displayed on slate-black serving dishes. Place the meat, veggies, and other goodies into the pot and gently move them around to soak up the flavors. Thin-sliced meats cook for about 10 to 15 seconds (or until meat changes color), green vegetables cook for one to two minutes. Noodles, dumpling, starchy vegetables, and seafood should cook for three to five minutes. Once the protein and veggies are cooked to your liking, put them on your plate to cool, and then give those dipping sauces a go with each bite.

Little Sheep hot pot emphasizes the harmony between the broth and ingredients, as well as the people sitting around the table and enjoying the food. Hot pot is a group activity and half the fun is sharing and enjoying your dinner with the people you care about the most. It's a great meal to get adventurous and try something new, to be able to personalize your meal with all the flavorful sauces and sides, and to laugh at your friend who is sweating profusely because they used too much "mala" chili oil.

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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

1200 Ala Moana Blvd

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