Lumping all Chinese food into one category is like defining gumbo and cheesesteak both under the label of “American Food.” Sure, they’re all foods from America, but New Orleans’ Creole cuisine is a whole different animal from Philadelphia’s famous sandwich (with Whiz, please). Very few of China’s famous regional cuisines are represented in Seattle’s restaurant scene, but there’s enough to give a whirlwind tour to someone who’s only ever known the Americanized, General Tso’s style of “Chinese” food.
Chinese hot pot is one of the world’s most curative foods. Perhaps not by any scientific measure, but those who have experienced the bug-squashing spice, congestion-clearing steamy broth, and soul-comforting swish of meat through soup, they know. A hot pot meal begins with a tureen of bubbling liquid coming to the table. Most places offer a variety of flavors—with plain traditional and spicy Sichuan being the most common—from which a table selects one or two. Then, depending on the restaurant, servers will either ask for preferences or simply bring a parade of all-you-can-eat meats, noodles, seafood, and vegetables. Diners can simply swish the food through the broth (as with thinly-sliced meats) or leave it to soak in the broth (recommended for heartier green vegetables and offal). As fall cold season comes to town, here’s a list of a few great places to cure any ills.