Seeking shelter from Beijing's unforgiving winter, we rushed towards
Xiangjiang Mingcheng for some Hong Kong-style hotpot, and were relieved upon
finally entering their warm dining hall. Spacious and cheerful, it was dotted
with pots of bubbling broth, while dense steam unfurled over the ruby cheeks of
We ordered the soup base made with huadiao, one of the best of Shaoxing's
yellow wines. One whiff of its pungent aroma cleared our heads and piqued our
appetites. A whole chicken was served with it, and was cooked at the
This is one of those hotpot places where you don't have to do
anything for yourself if you don't want to. The courteous waitress did all the
dirty work, putting the raw chicken pieces into the boiling soup and measuring
the cooking time carefully. She turned the heat off at the right moment and
advised us to let the chicken steep in the hot water for a while. The result was
thoroughly cooked yet tender and succulent chicken meat. A refreshing
Cantonese-style ginger and spring onion dipping sauce was provided. Authentic
and lightly mixed with oil, the ginger brought out the flavor of the chicken
As we were enjoying the chicken, we chucked all the meatballs into the pot,
as they take some time to cook. Meat and seafood balls in southern cuisine are
prized for their shuang texture, which lies somewhere between crispy and chewy.
The ideal meatball should have a resistance to the bite that suddenly gives way
to crispness. Xiangjiang Mingcheng's spherical creations are testament to this.
The assorted shouda-hand pulverized-meatballs were freshly made on the premises,
delivering the shuang-ness we were looking for.
The cubed beef with tendons also took a while to cook, as the tendons need
time to soften, but they're well worth the wait. The chewy beef soaks up all the
goodness from the broth, while the XO sauce we dipped it in-a paste of chilies
and dried seafood-pushed up the savory notch.
After a feast of protein, we craved sweets. The hot walnut tea was pale,
bland and suspiciously watery, but we gave them a second chance and ordered milk
tarts. Though the petite pastries were sweet enough, the filling was
insufficient, and the shell lacked body. The free fruit plate was able to
console us to some degree.
Despite dessert, we enjoyed an authentic Cantonese meal in a spotlessly
clean, casually sophisticated environment, leaving us thoroughly defrosted on a
bitter winter's night.
Tower B, Donghuan Plaza, Dongzhimen Dongzhongjie, Dongcheng