Sit down and enjoy steamy hotpot

Moral’s Village Hot Pot Restaurant – 940 Easton Ave, Somerset, NJ

Last visited – Friday 12/6/2019

A hotpot table ...waiting for customers

When I first heard about the concept of hot pot, I thought of a type of prepared dish that was spicy. Then I started hearing about whole hot pot restaurants. It turns out, which probably most already know, that hot pot is an Asian cuisine, created thousands of years ago in China. Hot pot as a cuisine is enjoyed all over the world. In Japan, one version of hot pot is called shabu-shabu and there are Vietnamese, Mongolian and Thai varieties that are all different but also similar, the difference being in the broth and the things that are added. So, what is hot pot (or hotpot or Hot-pot)? Hot Pot is a cooking method that is based around a simmering pot of soup stock. Usually there are fresh vegetables and assorted fresh, raw bite size meats and pieces of fish and various types of noodles. The broth becomes the cooking vessel for each of the ingredients. Each person who is part of the meal, places various ingredients in to the stock to cook it. Moments later, the morsels are extracted, dipped in to different types of sauces and eaten. The broth can range from salty, spicy, sweet and sour, basic chicken broth or even mushroom stock. The most popular broth is a broth made with goji berries, chicken and ginger. Intriguing you say? Intriguing indeed.

When we pulled up, there were many cars in the parking lot in front of the strip mall store front. Interestingly was that all of the windows to Moral’s Village were fogged over. It was hard to tell if the place was crowded or completely empty. That’s one of our gauges on a Friday night, if the place is full, it must be good. If the place is kind of empty, then maybe not so much. Anyway, we went in and there were several tables of customers. It doesn’t look so big from the outside, but on the inside, there had to be probably 40 tables of varying sizes and about half of them had diners. One of the first things we were asked is if we would prefer shared or individual hot pots. Of course, we went with a shared broth. But when we got to the table, we chose the option to split the pot, with spicy broth on one side and mild on the other, in the center, a small pot of mushroom broth was also added. The waitress was very patient and explained the process of ordering what we were going to cook, how the ‘sauce bar’ worked and she also recommended some ingredients to order based on what we all said we liked. We went with a platter of fresh pork and steak which was sliced very thin, jumbo shrimp (with heads still attached), shrimp balls, house special sliced potatoes (sliced like potato chips), Chinese cabbage, a table size order of fried rice and some long ramen type noodles.

Everything except the fried rice was uncooked and needed to be added to the broth. After we placed our order, we were directed to the ‘sauce bar’ which had about two dozen stainless steel containers with various sauces, like sesame sauce, peanut sauce, oyster sauce and a very tasty roasted shallot sauce. In addition to the vessels of sauce, there were bowls of freshly chopped scallions, garlic, onions and so on. There were also various types of seeds and other bowls of salad. The salads were the seaweed and cabbage style salads which were also included. The only bad thing was that we had NO idea what we were doing, so we got several small dishes of various sauces to you know, “dip” the foods that we were going to fish out of the broth. Well the broth was very hot, nearly boiling so everything we added in was cooked within a few seconds. The rule, we were informed, was that when the item changed color it was done. The potatoes kind of got lost and we presume because they were so thin, were cooked in to the broth. None of the items that we were cooking were seasoned. The only seasoning of course came from the broth and the sauces. Well it turns out that the sauces and the chopped items at the ‘sauce bar’ were supposed to be blended in certain ways, Like the shallot sauce could have been mixed with the garlic and onions and a ladle of broth so that it was more of a dip rather than a thick sauce. The oyster sauce was very heavy, and it turns out should have been blended with several other ingredients before dipping. We of course didn’t do that, so the whole sauce experience was a little lost. We only realized that missed cue on the sauces when we looked to our far left and saw a monitor demonstrating how to mix certain sauces. The monitor was not above or near the sauce bar, but rather over some dining tables. The fried rice was very good, more like an authentic homemade fried rice, which I have had from somebody’s kitchen. The noodles that took a swim in the broth were also very good.

Here’s the thing… It was a little difficult to coordinate what was going in to the pot and what was coming out of the pot. Editor Lil wound up being the cook, she took the helm to add, monitor and fish out the morsels of food and serve them to our raised plates. We had two pairs of tongs and a ladle to pull out the cooked food. Neither agent 1107 nor I could really be much help, and when she wasn’t being diligent, some of the items nearly disintegrated, like the potatoes. It was a great experience and it felt like it brought us all together (again) to truly share in a meal. I reflected that it was like everybody standing around the stove at home with a big pot, digging in. I enjoyed the food and of course loved the time I spent with the other two editors, but I wasn’t so keen on one of us needing to monitor and cook our meal for all of us. I would rather have ordered something that would come out already prepared. Overall we spent just about $90 for three people to eat and honestly, we were full.

Try it so you can judge for yourself. Morals Village, or any hot pot type place, is a place to go to when you and your group are thinking of some place really different. We will definitely go back now that we know what we know about the sauces and we will be more selective about what we order to ensure what we put in can be pulled out, intact and we might ask for another set or two of tongs so that we can all look for things to remove from the pot. Overall all three of the editors gave the restaurant, the service (because our waitress was really great) and the experience four smiles 😊😊😊😊.

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