Harbin Skewer Bar has fallen on Liverpool & Sussex Streets and Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang has expanded to its third location with the remnants of the defunct skewer bar still found in the room.
Nothing is better than a bowl of hot noodle soup on a cold winter’s day, it comes in many forms: laksa, pho, ramen and the fastest growing (from my observations) is Chinese-style Ma La Tang soup which is a spicy Sichuan base soup with “hot pot” ingredients such as meatballs, tofu, mushrooms, raw meat, noodles and veg.
Hot pot is more known as a communal experience, if you are not familiar it is comparable to Chinese fondue. Ma La Tang have converted what is normally an all-you-can-eat meal to a “create your own soup” where the price of the meal is charged by the weight ($24 per kg).
How it works?
It was pretty simple, grabbed a bowl and started filling it. The hot pot ingredients were displayed on tables buffet-style and ranged from fresh vegetables, meats, noodles to ready-made Chinese meat and fish balls. The contents were then weighed and paid for.
After 10-20 min the bowl of goodness was ready for collection. Just be aware that they call the order numbers in Chinese most of the time. On pick up you will be offered a selection of add-on sauces, take the lot except the chili one if you can’t take spiciness.
THE FOOD ($10-16)
Depends on weight $15 is plenty
The broth was the star as it should be for a soup dish. The Sichuan peppercorn taste was evident as it made the soup have that enduring heat without the burn. The level of spiciness without the optional chilli oil was mild and enjoyable. Compared to clear broth hot pot, this soup base was rich and much more aromatic with spices such as star anise were easily detected. The combination of the add-on sauces brought a strong garlic taste, nutty sesame and sourness and take the experience to the next level.
Rice glass noodles were a highlight!
The ingredients were ones you could easily buy at an Asian grocer/market but it is the broth and convenience that will make you regulars.
The soup base is one of those love it or hate it situations. The value is decent depending on your hunger. There could be improvements such as labels on ingredients and service to tables but with its current popularity, the owners will not find the need to. It is a strong alternative to laksa, pho, ramen, etc.