Soup's on: What's hot in Chinatown

The “half and half” style hot pot at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, 1019 Arch St.

With the temperatures down, let’s seek warmth in Chinatown in the form of soup. Chinatown’s expanding culinary diversity includes not only various regions of China, but Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia.

I’m a fan of hot pot – the DIY variety enjoyed at the table. At the energetic Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, which recently joined the nearby Hippot Shabu Shabu and Nine Ting on the hot-pot beat, you get your metal pot on an electric burner, a choice of traditional and spicy broths (best to order the half and half), and myriad meat/vegetable options (lamb is a specialty).

It’s all set to a Hot 100 soundtrack, and waiters are ever-present to offer help, whether you need a lot or just a soupçon.

Unlike the others, Little Sheep does not offer a sauce bar and is not flat-priced all-you-can-eat; you pay $3.50 for the soup base and take off from there, so figure about $25 a person. All are BYOB, wine or beer.

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / STAFF
Jjigae and assorted banchan at Dae Bak, 1026 Race St., Second Floor.

Want someone else to make the soup?

These O.G. Chinatown ideas are also worth your slurping skillz: red bean soup at Heung Fa Chun Sweet House, signature ramen at Terakawa, yasai (vegetarian) ramen from Yamitsuki, Shanghai wonton soup at Tom’s Dim Sum, Burmese fried-onion-topped pumpkin soup at Rangoon, Malaysian prawn mee at Banana Leaf, hot-and-sour from Lee How Fook, any of the noodle soups at Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, and chicken lemongrass soup at Vietnam.

The bubbling pots of soft-tofu-based soondubu jjigae at Dae Bak, the spare Korean sit-downer on the second floor of the Chinatown Square food hall, are an experience as you crack an egg to enrich it. Jjigae is more “stew” than “soup,” but when lows are dipping into the single digits, you want to get jjigae with it.

Camera icon DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer, File
House special meatball soup with hand-drawn noodles as served at Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House.

For more ideas, peruse Craig LaBan’s Ultimate Guide to Chinatown here.

And stand by a couple of months: Chubby Cattle, a multiunit hot pot specialist, is fixing to open at 146 N. 10th St.