Hotpot has been on the spotlight for years and with so much reason for it. What’s interesting to know is that this popular Chinese meal has a very long history of more than a thousand years. From its humble beginning among Mongolian horsemen, modern trends even glamorized it with barbie dolls dressed in thin slices of meat, Hello Kitty and teddy bear-shaped mala broth. Legend has it that it came from the hands of Mongolian horsemen who would boil the broth in their helmets over an open fire wherein they place chunks of meat inside to cook their meals. This way of cooking then made its way to China and starting from the 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, the notable people of the era were already indulging in hotpot meals.
As hotpot found its way diffused all over China, it also adapted to diverse palates and various ingredients found in different regions. The most well-known regional variety is that of Sichuan which is distinguished for broth with spicy and fragrant chili peppers, Szechuan peppercorns, spices and other aromatics.
What is a hotpot?
Hotpot consists of a flavorful broth that’s kept simmering hot inside a large metal pot in the middle of the table for the duration of the meal while the diners put their raw ingredients of vegetables, meat or fish into the hot stock as they get cooked. The cooked pieces are then dipped into a variety of dipping sauces to augment the flavors.
This Chinese meal has been conquering the global culinary trends and finally, it has also arrived in Rome, thanks to its proprietress Giorgia Chen who opened the hotpot restaurant just a few steps from Piazza Vittorio last October 2021. She is a daughter of Chinese restaurateurs who grew up in Italy while traveling and savoring the different cultures that have enriched her cuisine. She and her partners took De Zhuang straight from China directly to Rome for the Italians to experience the exhilarating Oriental flavors and aromas in a sharing hot cauldron plus the various degrees of spiciness it offers.
The pot of hot broth is essential and at De Zhuang, that’s the first thing you have to choose: with one or two flavors of spicy and/or sweet. Then there’s another broth of tomatoes and porcini mushrooms which is ideal for an oriental experience in full vegetarian style. The spiciness is the real gem of the hotpot. The 6 degrees of spiciness is up to a maximum of 75 degrees. It is an intensity of spiciness given by the oil of animal fat, all homemade, patented and registered by the parent company as “Mr. Lu’s degree of spiciness”. Who said that spiciness is divided only at low, medium and high? Choose the middle range of 45 which gives you an idea what degrees they are speaking about.
The sauce gives additional flavor to the cooked food and there are some to choose from like satay or peanut, sesame, oyster, soy and the universal sauce. However, the undisputed protagonist of the broth is the ingredient that you cook in the broth. They have to be of optimum quality to enjoy it more. At De Zhuang, they only source them from reputable Italian producers like the meat of lamb or beef, fish, vegetables and pasta (soy spaghetti, gnocchi with Chinese red potatoes). Every single ingredient highlights the very high quality of the chosen raw material which is thus valued and never covered up, as is often the case in the local cuisine. The à la carte menu also offers precooked dishes like spring rolls, sautéed rice, dumplings and delicacies like duck tongue and chicken feet for the more adventurous, as well as desserts like the refreshing plant-derived ice jelly.
De Zhuang has 80 seats spread out in 20 tables and it is fast becoming popular in Rome with small group of friends (best with 4 people) trying out this convivial Chinese meal. Not only do you cook your food at your own pace, you also get to see the high quality of the raw ingredients that they use. It’s fun to cook together and play with the flavors as you discover a new side of the Chinese cuisine. De Zhuang is an authentic experience that has embraced the philosophy of one of China’s top ten hotpot brands in terms of quality and authenticity.
De Zhuang Hotpot
Address: Via di San Vito 15/16, 00185 Rome (RM), Italy
Tel: +39 06 57297420
Open daily for lunch and dinner except Tuesdays