Mrs. Gu Skewers and Hot Pot is a brand that's been around since 1987 with dozens of locations in China. Known for their skewers and the do-it-yourself nature of the cooking, it's a fun and delicious way to gather around the table.
EXTRA COURSE: Trio of desserts at Mrs. Gu
The options you'll encounter might be a little overwhelming, but don't worry, there is plenty of help on hand to show you how to hot pot like a pro.
Huddled over steaming cauldrons of soup, hot pot is an excellent way to sample lots of different things while keeping warm in the wintertime. For Chinese ex-pats, the sight of a Mrs. Gu Skewers and Hot Pot is almost like an American spotting a McDonald's. Families spend time cooking and eating together here, and so when the company approached local chef and restaurateur Tony Hu, plans came together quickly.
"This concept is totally new to America, to Chicago," said Hu.
Hu said it's really up to the guest to customize their experience and all you need to remember are three things.
"First step: you choose the soup base," he said.
There are five kinds, including spicy, mild, mushroom and tomato broth. You can also get a yin-yang of half-and-half. We opted for a mild side, seasoned with jujubes, goji berries and ginger; then a spicier side with a homemade chili paste, lots and lots of chicken broth, and the addition of yet another homemade chili sauce.
"Second step you go to the sauce station," he said.
You need to think about what kind of seasoning you want to enhance the cooked meat and vegetables. From a bar with more than 20 options, you can choose soy, vinegar, peanut sauce, garlic, cilantro - you name it.
"The third thing is go to the fridge, the cooler. You have all kinds of fresh ingredients, pick whatever you like," said Hu.
Just go shopping really, but keep in mind that each skewer is $0.36. So if you grab a handful, remember that those skewers will be counted up later.
Fresh tofu, bamboo shoots, bok choy, napa cabbage and yams are just a few of the vegetarian items, while spicy beef, chicken and nearly every part of the pig are featured on the meaty side.
Best of all, cooking is simple. Just dunk the vegetables for three or four minutes; maybe a few minutes more for the beef and chicken. You then yank them off the skewers, or roll them in some chili powder for an additional jolt and pull them off with your teeth. Then simply plunge your skewers into the bucket of sand next to the table so they can be counted. Either way, you don't want to do this sort of dining alone.
"Very good to do with family and friends, together," said Hu.
Mrs. Gu Skewers & Hot Pot
2407 S. Wentworth Ave.