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A Chinese hot pot specialist on Shaftesbury Avenue
Like puzzles? Try this. If a hotpot spot has five broths, eight things to dip and 46 things to cook, how many possible combinations are there?
I don’t actually know the answer (Facebook us with thoughts, please), but I do know this: it’s a lot. It’s as if the owners said ‘No-choice menus? Fuck that. Let’s give them so many options it’ll blow their tiny minds.’
But first things first. What exactly is ‘hotpot’? Well, it’s sort of an Asian version of a meat fondue, only using broth to do the ‘cooking’. But before you say ‘Oh yeah, hotpot, I’m all over that’, Shuang Shuang hasn’t gone for the standard set-up where you collect ingredients from a central ‘station’ (like a Pizza Hut salad bar); it uses a whizzy kaiten (revolving-sushi-bar conveyor-belt), in a gleaming white-and-steel space straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie. This is DIY dining to the max. And because your first visit may slightly fry your brain, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting the best out of Shuang Shuang.
1. Ask to sit. We like the upstairs, where there are also tables for four. 2. Order snacks. You don’t need these, but the crisp chilli-and-cumin-spiced pigs’ ears and moreish scallop-and-prawn fritters are too good to miss. 3. Order your broth. Szechuanese mala (meaning ‘numbing and spicy’) is true to its name – delicious but dominant; we also liked ‘black bird’, a more subtle chicken stock. 4. Choose or make some dip. We recommend ‘DIY’ which allows you to mix grated ginger with sesame butter or the dried-shrimp hit of ‘sha cha’ paste. 5. Use the buttons on your panel to turn your hotpot to high then – once it’s bubbling – low again. 6. Pick your ingredients. If you’re going old-school, you’ll want fish balls, instant noodles, luncheon meat and tripe. For a more gweilo (‘foreigner’) friendly approach, try scallop chunks, mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, needle), bamboo shoots, pak choi and firm ho fun. Also try sliding tiny morsels of the excellent ‘house prawn ball’ (a grey glistening tube of minced prawn) into your stock. 7. Set a stopwatch (use your phone). 8. Enjoy.
Shuang Shuang is a place for people who don’t take themselves too seriously (did we mention there are plastic bibs?) and do like fast food that can be mega-healthy. Plus, it’s a great spot to sit on your own and, you know, do a few puzzles.
64 Shaftesbury Avenue
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square|
|Opening hours:||Sun – Thur 12:00 – 23:00 Fri – Sat 12:00 – 23:30|
|Do you own this business?|