Hot Pot Time Machine

4 Aug

Minni’s Shabu Shabu
131-17 38 Avenue

It had been almost three months since we last convened and in the midst of deadlines, I never reported on the dinner. The place was called Minni’s Shabu Shabu  ( in Flushing, Queens and though my memory of that night has blurred somewhat over the past few months, I do remember that it was very cold and the steaming hot pots offered at Minni’s were a relief. Eugene, going on the advice of a friend, had chosen the brightly lit restaurant where each table had a built-in hot pot filled with broth. There were on/off switches with a temperature control and each of us was given a platter of raw vegetables, two uncooked eggs, some starchy provisions we could not immediately identify, and rice noodles. Apparently, it was up to us to cook the food, but the combination of technical savvy and culinary knowledge of what goes into a shabu shabu (the meal created with the hot pots) was complicated and looking to Eugene, who supposedly researched the place, for any advice was futile.

The waiter who was busy buzzing between tables in the crowded restaurant quickly helped us get started; we had to order a meat or fish to be cooked in the broth along with the accompanying vegetables and noodles. The offerings were plentiful—lamb, pork, beef, clams, lobster, squid, tripe; all of it making it even more confusing. I kept it simple by ordering beef, but the waiter mistakenly thought I wanted the tripe and beef so along with thinly sliced raw round steak, I had a honeycomb of tripe as well which I quickly donated to Zio’s already enormous platter of uncooked shellfish and vegetables.

Ingredients for the hot pot

After dousing the beef into the boiling broth, the red meat immediately turned a sallow gray and tasted as lifeless as it looked. Maybe adding a few of the vegetables would help? I threw some cabbage and the eggs in the broth and then wandered to a buffet where a variety of sauces were available; hot chili sauce, soy, sweet barbecue, a green, coriander sauce, red tofu and countless others. Without any guidance, I began adding a little of all of them. The result was more flavor, but minus any distinction.

The color of…

All of us were pretty much clueless on the art of making shabu shabu with the notable exception of Mike from Yonkers who was deliberately adding ingredients; slowly layering his soup with flavors. Whether it was an act or something he was a natural at, we will never know, but he certainly looked good doing it. So, though most of my broth had evaporated and the ingredients already devoured, I mimicked Mike from Yonkers’ technique, and, surprisingly, the last remnants of the soup was now a hearty, flavorful meal. Next time I visit a shabu shabu place, I’ll be better prepared though, in all honesty, that next time won’t be soon.

We last visited Minni’s in Flushing in 2008. It still goes strong and now, I believe, deserves a return trip.

3 Responses to “Hot Pot Time Machine”

  1. rick August 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Love the title of this post!. I think the key is to avoid beef in a place like this–but at least it wasn’t cold duck feet!

  2. BSS August 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Let’s hope the Hot Pot Time Machine was better than the Hot Tub Time Machine. We’ll get to the cold duck feet soon enough. Be prepared.


  1. The Ring of Fire on Roosevelt Avenue « Fried Neck Bones…and some home fries - December 4, 2012

    […] his hasty judgment based on one hot pot experience (Minni’s Shabu Shabu), Gerry agreed to meet the two of us […]

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