Muslim hot pot: A religious culinary experience

Muslim hot pot: A religious culinary experience

Shanghai’s preeminent Muslim restaurant gets a facelift, but leaves their famous food just as delicious as it always was
Muslim hot pot
The hot pot uses a water base, making it a healthier alternative to the usual oil based hot pots.

At the end of the popular Yunnan Lu food street sits a palatial, metallic-domed building that looks like it came straight out of India, or even Saudi Arabia. Inside it boasts an arced ceiling, marble floors and plenty of gold trim. Intricate stained-glass windows filter the afternoon sunlight.

The menu is covered with cuts of lamb. And the dumplings, which come with a delicious, thick, skin -- only come in one variety. You guessed it.

But there’s no kneeling or shoe removal here, just good eating, and lots of it.

Dine with history

At more than 100-years-old, Hong Chang Xing Muslim hot pot is the oldest halal restaurant in the city. And in the past year it’s had a facelift. In preparation for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the restaurant is all gussied up and poised to host the city’s Muslim guests.

The four-level building is sparkling with Islamic decor from all over China and beyond. There are passages from the Koran, Persian carpets and Islamic vase-shaped columns in the private rooms.

The staff explain that the owner, Ma Zongli, traveled throughout Muslim areas of China to observe Islamic designs, as well as Saudi Arabia where he visited Muslim restaurants and hotels in preparation for this renovation.

Impressive decor aside, the Muslim hot pot also makes this landmark worth a visit.

Dig in

This hot pot uses coal to heat the pot, with a brass funnel to propel the smoke upward. Also, unlike the usual oily hot pot bases, this one comes with plain water. It’s fun to see how the stock’s flavor changes as you add various vegetables and meat.

The menu is covered with cuts of lamb and the dumplings, which come with a delicious, thick, skin, only come in one variety. You guessed it -- lamb.

Our verdict: This water-based Muslim hot pot feels healthier than your typical oily one as does the fresh produce and good cuts of meat. And Hong Chang Xing’s new digs are elegant and glitzy. That is, except for the inflatable blue Haibao, the omnipresent Expo logo smiling his cheesy grin in the lobby.

Getting there

Hong Chang Xing
1 Yunnan Lu, near Yan'an Lu
云南路1号, 近延安路
tel +86 21 6328 1551

10/F, 288 Guangxi Bei Lu, near Jiujiang Lu
广西北路288号10楼,近九江路
tel +86 21 6352 9700

Schmitt is a Shanghai-based writer.
Read more about Kellie Schmitt
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