Hotpot Hub

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Since Soa Soa opened almost eight years ago, the Chinese restaurant near the center of Ho Chi Minh City has gained a well-deserved reputation for its hotpots.

My favorite is the house special, appropriately named "Soa Soa hotpot", but there are 17 basic hotpots on the menu, and what gets added to the steaming bullion on the electric stove is up to the patrons sitting around it.

Priced at a little over VND100,000 per pot, excluding the food thrown in, the 17 choices include Sichuan, Chongquing, Chaozhou, Singapore, Thai, traditional Chinese herbal, curried-goat and red-wine hotpots.

The recipe for making the delicious Soa Soa hotpot bullion is a closely guarded secret, though there's nothing secret about the fragrance, sweetness and consistency that keeps patrons refilling their bowls.

As the hotpot steams on the stove in front of them, Soa Soa's patrons can add main ingredients like pork, beef, goat, shrimp, fish or oyster costing between VND35,000 and VND39,000 per plateful, as well as assorted noodles, vermicelli, vegetables and mushrooms for VND17,000 to VND25,000 per serving.

My only complaint about Soa Soa is the measly size of the servings, and it can be quite expensive to add generous amounts of meat, fish, noodles and veggies to the bullion.

The sauce that accompanies the hotspot is excellent, and unlimited in quantity. It's a combination of green onion, soya cheese, and sa te (pan-fried ostrich fillet with satay sauce) that tastes brilliant.

Just as scrumptious is the fried tofu skin, which is listed in the menu as "Soya slice tofu". When put into the pot, the tofu skin becomes a tad firmer and a bit crunchy. An egg, priced at VND6,000, is also recommended to add flavor and a touch of greasiness to the pot.

Soa Soa Restaurant

Hoa Lu Stadium

 64 Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 3, HCMC

Besides hotpots, Soa Soa serves such staples as fish, pork, beef and vegetable dishes as well as a variety of noodles and rice. But a hotpot is always the first choice for every regular patron and newcomer.

Away from strictly food, the restaurant's décor is intimate, the yellow lantern hanging from the ceiling exudes a warm glow, and the wooden tables and chairs plus the hardy sugar cane grass on the walls make for a natural yet vivid ambience. 

Patrons dining on the ground floor can choose to sit on high chairs at high tables, or at low tables among the classical pillars near the indoor pond, sort-of like in a palace.

The dining room on the second floor is smaller and only has high tables and chairs. For beverage Soa Soa serves different kinds of beer, wine, soft drink and smoothies.

Since I first went there five years ago, I've noticed that the service has improved immeasurably while the food quality has stayed at the same high level.

For the rainy season, like now in Saigon, Soa Soa is a nice place to dine.

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