It’s hotpot deja vu, as I take a break from documenting my China holiday, to bring you this Chinese hotpot in Singapore.
Shi Li Fang is not a “popular hotpot chain” in China. It really isn’t. Sure, it’s from China, but Shi Li Fang is actually known for something a little more down-to-earth – Northern Chinese street fare. It’s certainly curious that a brand would eschew its signatures, and start afresh with its international debut – it’s the equivalent of Old Chang Kee expanding into Thailand, and deciding to sell Shibuya toasts, instead of the Singaporean street snacks that it’s known for.
However, before you call them out for blasphemy, let’s consider a simple factor: Northern Chinese cuisine is, well, weird. So, we have la mian and dumplings, which arguably more Eastern Chinese than Northern Chinese, and we have the Chinese pancakes and Chinese crepes, which are quite the delicious savory indulgences. But from hereon out, it gets bizarre: not in terms of exotic meats, but flavors and textures that one might not immediately or ever associate as being “Chinese” or edible. Therefore, introducing a hotpot concept, an idea familiar among Asians, feels like a softer approach in introducing the adventurous and exotic Northern Chinese fare to Singaporeans.
Don’t mistake this for your local steamboat chain, because it’s still inherently Northern Chinese in character and flavor.
Located at Orchard Central, Shi Li Fang shares a lot in common with the Beijing hotpot chain, Xiabu Xiabu. It’s individual, bar-style hotpot, although there are a few tables for the more familiar communal configuration. There is a sauce buffet, where you may concoct your own special sauce to your heart’s delight, although Shi Li Fang offers two sauce recipe combinations which roughly translates to the Mainland Chinese hotpot ubiquitous peanut sauce, and chili option.
Shi Li Fang similarly offers several soup bases, and even offers a twin combination, all virtually at the same price. So, diners who like to cook their ingredients in the mala spicy soup, but would like to enjoy a clear chicken broth, may do so, too. I would say that it’s certainly not a place for family gatherings because, well, it’s a bar-style configuration, and not very ideal. This is certainly aimed at the younger generation.
Like Xiabu Xiabu, the set meals are quite the steal, compared to ordering a la carte all the way. I’d recommend getting the set – the cheapest one – then topping up with whatever you want.
To be honest, I quite enjoyed it. I love hotpot as and when I’m on the go, and when I want to have it, I’ve to concern myself about calling out friends, or spending a lot of money, or worse, dealing with those faux fish steamboat options at food courts. Now, if I want to, I can just come up, and eat hotpot whenever I want.
Now, that’s true freedom.