The crabs are tiny freshwater paddy crabs, pounded into a paste and strained to make the broth. Throw in some crab meat and fried tofu, some light seasoning, and you get a bubbling soup to dunk your noodles and vegetables. The size of the hotpot in this shop is enough for two, you have to pay a few dollars extra for some chrysanthemum greens (cải cúc or tần ô) and some thin rice vermicelli (they absorb the broth better than the flat kind), but the package doesn’t taste complete without them.
What does this hotpot taste like? Imagine yourself in a remote area on a mildly hot day (not blazing though), sitting on a low chair under the shade, looking out to some green rice paddy in Can Tho, a canal in Giethoorn, or some other kind of open field with flowing water. You’re hungry but not famished, it’s hot enough that you just want something light and sweet but not ice cream. Something that goes down with no effort on your end (and requires little effort on your stomach later too). That’s what this hotpot tastes like.
Now where can I get something like this in the Oakland-Berkeley area though…
Address: One Hot Pot and Grill
12148 Bellaire Blvd, Suite 111
Houston, TX 77072
Light dinner for 3: 1 crab hotpot ($15.99) + 1 saffron grilled goby fish (cá kèo, $4.99) + 1 lemongrass grilled pig heart and kidney ($4.99) + 1 chrysanthemum greens ($3.99) + 1 rice vermicelli ($2.99) + tax = $35.67
The service is also nice.