By Gia Linh
Just like a glass of soda with ice on a hot summer day, or a cup of hot chocolate in winter, nothing is better than having a warm, delicious hotpot on a cool rainy day in HCM City.
I asked one of my acquaintances for their recommendation for an “unordinary” hotpot among those familiar ones like Thai style or mushroom hotpot, and was suggested to try the Stingray Hotpot 34 restaurant in Thủ Đức City.
|Stingray Hotpot 34 in Thủ Đức City is popular for their delicious stingray hotpot and other dishes. VNS Photo Gia Linh|
It might sound bizarre at first, but stingray hotpot is originally one of Vũng Tàu City’s specialties. It is common for Vietnamese hotpot to pair any fish with a spicy and sour broth, and this formula applies perfectly on this dish.
As the name suggests, Stingray Hotpot 34 specialises in stingray hotpot with freshly caught stingray and several side dishes. Having opened for more than four years, they have received positive comments and are popular among hotpot lovers.
My family and I found the place appealing due to its claim to use fresh ingredients only and not use MSG in any dishes. It is a bit far from our house, but that could not stop foodies like us to give it a try.
Upon arrival, I had such a nice first impression of the place. Despite being quite a small space, it created a welcoming, homey feeling with yellow walls and bright lighting. Short-leg tables and stools were arranged instead of the usual tall tables and chairs, bringing a street-food vibe to it. The only drawback was that there was no AC inside, but that was not a big deal with the chilly rainy weather that day.
It was only around 6pm when we got there, but it was already filled with diners. The staff was extremely attentive and arranged a table for us immediately.
We ordered a stingray hotpot for four, one portion of boiled river snails, and a plate of Thai style chicken feet. The hotpot was served almost right away, and it didn't take long for the other two to arrive. They were all hot, steamy, and freshly made. The staff provided us with a portable gas stove to reheat our hotpot and special sauces to pair with each dish.
We had so much anticipation for the hotpot that we turned on the stove and added in the vegetables right when it started to boil. There were fresh vegetables and rice vermicelli included with the hotpot.
|Sour stingray hotpot with fresh vegetables is perfect for cool rainy days. VNS Photo Gia Linh|
The vegetables were very fresh, consisting of water spinach, taro stems, shredded banana flower, and okra. There are no such “rules” on which vegetables to choose when enjoying hotpots, but I personally love this combination since they do not have a strong taste and absorb the broth really well. All of the hotpot components could be ordered separately.
We dived right into the hotpot. The umami from fish bones simmered for long hours, fragrance from cilantro leaves, together with fried garlic bits strongly hit our palate. The pickled bamboo shoots brought some tanginess to the broth, making it so addicting that we sipped continuously.
With such an affordable price of VNĐ280,000 (around US$12) for a hotpot portion for four, we did not expect it to have so many fish chunks inside, which were very well-prepared since stingrays usually have a not very pleasant smell to them. All the components combined together made it hard for us to put our chopsticks down.
After devouring the hotpot, we moved on to the two side dishes. The Thai style chicken feet were more like a Thai papaya salad. It consisted of shredded green papaya, carrot, cilantro and bite-sized chicken feet, mixed with a special spicy and tangy sauce, and topped with roasted peanuts. As a person whose spice tolerance is not that great, I can say that it did not taste as spicy as it looked.
|Thai style chicken feet is a great palate refresher. – VNS Photo Gia Linh|
The chicken feet were so crunchy and fresh and went so well with the sweet, spicy and sour sauce. The shredded papaya and carrot really levelled up the crunchiness and refreshed our palate. This dish together with some cold beer would be a perfect combination.
Our last dish was boiled river snails with lemongrass. The snails were, again, fresh and well-prepared. The flavour from lemongrass, ginger, fresh peppercorns, and Vietnamese basil hit the tip of our tongues right away, but not unbearably strong. The dish paired perfectly with a special sauce of minced lemongrass and sweet, spicy fish sauce. It is another simple yet perfect dish for a cool rainy day.
|Boiled river snails with lemongrass and fresh peppercorns bring warmness on cool rainy days. – VNS Photo Gia Linh|
|Side dishes like Thai style chicken feet and boiled river snails are great to pair with cold beer. – VNS Photo Gia Linh|
Our family enjoyed the last bit of everything. Every dish was perfectly seasoned, and the portion size was relatively large for such affordable prices.
The price for a hotpot portion for two is VNĐ180,000 and VNĐ280,000 for four. Extra hotpot condiments and other side dishes are mostly under VNĐ100,000, which is totally worth it for such great quality and service.
If you want to have something hot and soupy in this ongoing rainy season in HCM City, I highly recommend Stingray Hotpot 34 for their high quality food and service. – VNS
Stingray Hotpot 34
Address: 15 Street No. 18, An Khánh Ward, Thủ Đức City
Hotline: 0848 899 934
Opening hours: 10:30am to 1:30pm, 4pm to 10pm
Comment: A delicious hotpot place with fresh ingredients and great service.