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Chongqing-style hot pot from Chun La Hao in Temple City.
Chongqing-style hot pot from Chun La Hao in Temple City, featuring a half-and-half soup base with mushrooms, tai chi beef, tofu combo platter and beef tripe.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Warm up with the best hot pot in L.A.

When storms pummel Los Angeles, the best thing to do to stay warm is gather friends and family for a meal of hot pot. This typically communal way of dining can be anything you want it to be: strictly vegetarian, fiery and spicy or mellow and comforting. Hot pot spans Asia with a flurry of ingredients, unique broths and cooking methods that reflect a variety of cultures.

In Japan, hot pot is all about simplicity, quality ingredients and family time. Sayuri Tachibe, owner of Pasadena’s Osawa Shabu Shabu & Sushi, fondly remembers having hot pot at home during her childhood in Japan. It’s something she’s also passed down to her son, Sho Emerson, who is the maitre d’ at Osawa. “Hot pot is a fun family experience,” Emerson says, adding, “It’s the act of cooking and being together.”

For chef Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai, hot pot was a way to continue providing her community with nourishing food during the pandemic.

“I asked myself, ‘What do Thais eat outside besides street food?’ We wanted to find experiences people can enjoy outside,” she explains. On a trip to the Thai grocery store LAX-C in Chinatown, she and her family spotted a rack of Thai moo krata, or hot pot pans, and decided to buy them all. They found their COVID comfort food, and the hot pots double as outdoor heaters.

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“Moo krata is such a communal thing,” Asapahu says. “You don’t want to eat moo krata with people you don’t love.”

Shabu shabu and moo krata merely scratch the surface of all the varieties of hot pot available in Los Angeles. There’s mouth-numbing Chongqing hot pot, luxurious all-you-can-eat Wagyu hot pot and a Korean take on hot pot that is cooked in a paper pot. Next time a storm blows in, these are the places to take loved ones for a warming meal.

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A metal bowl filled with meat and vegetables
(Kat Thompson)

Ayara Thai

Westchester Thai $$
Hot pot is not an everyday occurrence at Ayara Thai, but it should be. Ayara hosts frequent moo krata nights. The dish translates to “pork pan,” which is an extremely popular meal in Thailand to share among friends. The pan for moo krata is shaped like a mountain with a deep moat around the circumference; the raised portion is used for grilling meats and seafood, and the moat catches the renderings that add additional flavor to the soup component. This communal grill and hot pot combination means you get crispy pork belly and stewed cabbage, noodles and soft egg tofu. Although pig is in the name of this hot pot style, beef, fish cakes, bean curd sheets and even scallops are available at Ayara. There are plenty of veggies too — long strands of enoki mushrooms, spinach, carrots cut into flower shapes — but because everything is cooked in the same pot-grill, it is not a vegetarian-friendly meal. Ayara frequently posts its moo krata nights on Instagram, with the next one slated for Thai New Year in April.
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A metal bowl with a divider in the center, surrounded by small dishes of rice and other items
(Kat Thompson)

Chun La Hao Old Chong Qing Hot Pot

Temple City Chinese $$
The air inside Chun La Hao Old Chong Qing Hot Pot is so thick with roasted chiles that it might just induce a coughing fit upon entry. This is how you know you’re in for a delicious — and spicy — ride. As the name suggests, this hot pot style pulls from Chongqing, China, an area known for its fiery hot pot. The split pots allow for two different broths; trust me when I say you should opt for one mild flavor, like tomato or mushroom, to function as a reprieve from the spicy pork bone flavor, which is mandatory. Diners who are brave when it comes to chiles should still be warned that the mild level packs a hefty punch. Everything else on the menu is ordered a la carte, so whether you want fatty strips of marbled beef, shrimp balls or plenty of veggies, your hot pot is completely customizable. A meal at Chun La Hao also comes with a sauce bar and self-serve snacks, including liangfen, chilled mung bean noodles smothered in lip-numbing chili crisp.
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A divided metal pot with plates of raw meat and dishes of sauce and vegetables
(Kat Thompson)

Happy AYCE Hot Pot

Rosemead Chinese $$
Happy is a buffet-style Chinese hot pot joint in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. There’s a tiered system for all-you-can-eat here that begins at $19.95 for weekday lunches and $24.95 for weekends and dinners. This communal hot pot has halved pots so you can choose two broths from the five options. For first-timers, I recommend the “best of both worlds” option, which is half original bone broth and half spicy marrow broth. Protein options include lamb, chicken, pork belly and various cuts of beef and are brought over by servers. Everything else can be acquired at the buffet: thick cuts of taro root, tofu cubes and skins, shrimp, fish, squid, meatballs and a selection of noodles ranging from udon to ramen to glass noodles. The buffet also offers char siu, egg rolls, fried rice and salt-and-pepper shrimp skewers. There’s unlimited access to a soda fountain and winter melon tea, as well as a chocolate fondue tower for dessert with fruit and marshmallows for dunking.
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A clay pot of soup on a table next to a tower with raw meats for cooking
(Kat Thompson)

Isaan Station

Mid-Wilshire Thai $
The hot pot at Isaan Station is communal and quite possibly the cutest setup of any of the hot pots on this list. Instead of standard steel pots, all of the cooking takes place in a traditional clay pot that is kept warm over coals. A tower, much like something you’d find at high tea, arrives with pork, an egg, sliced cabbage, glass noodles and sweet Thai basil. The broth is the highlight here; it’s made with pork bone stock and plenty of Thai herbs to give it a grassy, full-bodied flavor. The broth’s porky sweetness only intensifies as you cook cabbage and pork in its bubbling depths. In true Thai fashion, hot pot here also is served with Thai chiles and garlic; jao or Thai hot sauce prepared with the aforementioned ingredients and garlic and fish sauce; and suki sauce, a funky red bean curd paste that’s sweet and salty. You can add the sauces, chiles and garlic directly to the broth or just use them to dip meat and veggies.
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A metal bowl brimming with broth, egg, tofu and vegetables
(Kat Thompson)

Lacha Somtum

Los Feliz Thai $$
There are a lot of Thai hot pot variations to choose from at Lacha Somtum, from Isaan jim joom to an instant ramen riff reminiscent of Korean army stew, but Thailand’s version of sukiyaki is a standout here. The hot pot arrives with all the ingredients in place, so dipping isn’t necessary. Bites include soft tofu, a choice of protein (pork, chicken, beef or seafood), eggs, spinach, mushrooms and glass noodles that absorb a lot of the sweet and unctuous chicken broth. To amplify the hot pot, be sure to drizzle the Thai suki condiment — a garlicky sauce made from red fermented bean curd — over the meat and soup. This hot pot can feed one to three people, so if you’re dining with a crowd amplify the meal with the restaurant’s namesake som tums, or papaya salads, sticky rice and pork spareribs or another option from the hot pot menu.
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A metal divided pot with a wooden tray that holds raw meat, plus small dishes of sauce
(Kat Thompson)

Mikiya

Temple City Japanese $$
For a luxe offering, Mikiya is the place to go. The interior of this Japanese hot pot castle is plush and tastefully decorated, and it’s hard to get fancier than all-you-can-eat Wagyu. Mikiya, which has locations in Temple City and Cerritos as well as Las Vegas, operates on a tiered system that begins at $45 per person and goes up to $98. For the most pared-down menu, there are three cuts of American Wagyu to select from alongside chicken, pork, endless vegetable platters and as many scoops of ice cream as you want to finish the meal. The most expensive option includes Japanese Wagyu, seafood platters, foie gras and bone marrow. The pot is communal and diners can select two of the four broths available: sweet and salty sukiyaki, a mildly spicy miso, tomato broth or a savory house broth. There are also endless condiments — like crushed garlic and chopped Thai chiles — to add to the ponzu, sesame and spicy soy sauces available. In addition to endless meats and veggies, Mikiya offers unlimited snacks that range from fried chicken and sweet potato fries to takowasa, a cold raw squid and wasabi salad that should not be skipped.
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A black pot of broth with sliced raw meat and dishes of sauce and noodles
(Kat Thompson)

Osawa

Pasadena Japanese $$
Hot pot is served in small cast-iron pots at the bar of Osawa and there are only eight seats, so reservations are encouraged. Here, hot pot is an individual meal that emphasizes quality and balance of ingredients. What you get is to-the-point and delicious; the only decision to be made is what type of protein you’ll want. Choose from four options — Kurobuta pork loin, Black Angus rib-eye, Wagyu and salmon — and everything else, including veggies, broth and noodles, is selected for you to complete the set. There’s a lot of intentionality to the hot pot at Osawa; delicate salmon is paired with a spicy miso broth and chewy udon noodles, while the pork option is bolstered by pork tonkotsu broth. Wagyu shines in an unobtrusive kelp or chicken broth. Just put your trust in the chef — whom you can watch shave or slice your meat of choice before assembling the rest of your ingredients — and enjoy the hot pot journey.
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Paper Pot Shabu

Diamond Bar Asian $$
The magic in Paper Pot Shabu is in its name. Here, you won’t find clay pots, cast iron or steel. Instead, everything is cooked in paper pots. How that’s possible without flames and ash is scientifically beyond me, but it’s got something to do with the individual induction stoves at each table. This Korean- and Japanese-influenced hot pot spot has the most soup varieties of any place on this list, ranging from classics like miso, sukiyaki and house spicy to more interesting options like curry, tomato and seafood. Meat options have something for everyone too — lamb, beef, seafood, chicken or pork — and veggie platters make Paper Pot a great location for anyone with dietary restrictions. You can beef up your meal with a la carte add-ons such as fish cakes, mushrooms, scallops and a selection of noodle types. Lastly, parking is plentiful at this Diamond Bar strip mall.
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A large black bowl of soup with smaller black bowls of sauce
(Kat Thompson)

YinTang Spicy Hot Pot

Monterey Park Taiwanese Chinese $$
YinTang, a hot pot chain that hails from Taiwan, has the convenience and customization of Yogurtland, but instead of cold dairy it’s all about the hot soup. There’s no waiting for broth to boil or dipping here; instead, diners select and place all their hot pot favorites — roe-stuffed fish balls, blood cakes, shaved lamb, to name a few — in a large bowl, which is then weighed at a rate of $13.99 per pound. The soup options are tomato or beef bone broth and there are varying levels of heat you can add to your bowl. Once all selections are made, the bowl is whisked to the kitchen where all the cooking is done before it’s transported to your table, ready to be enjoyed. There’s an extensive sauce bar with shacha sauce, chili crisp, black vinegar, plenty of garlic, green onions and chiles, so the joy of dipping veggies and meat is still present. Bonus: The entire meal can be slurped like a big bowl of ramen.
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A divided metal pot with two types of soup, next to rolled raw meat on a metal plate
(Kat Thompson)

504 Lau & Noodle

Westminster Vietnamese $$
The value at 504 Lau & Noodle is hard to beat. Try not to get confused: The sign on the outside also reads Shabu Grill Seafood Buffet, but if you spot the banner that says Lau & Nuong buffet, you’re in the right place. All-you-can-eat barbecue and hot pot, or l?u in Vietnamese, clocks in at $21.99 per person on the weekdays and $27.99 on weekends. There is a communal grill at each table, and each diner gets an individual hot pot that’s split between an anise-kissed broth similar to pho — right down to the translucent shaved onions — and a lemongrass-forward interpretation of tom yum. From there, head to the buffet counter and load up a plate with seafood. There’s mussels and razor clams, sea snails, crab legs, shrimp and soft white fish. If you want meat and vegetables, there’s plenty of pork belly and beef brisket, and a plethora of leafy greens as well. You can choose to boil your haul in the hot pot or cook them over the grill (shrimp and brisket are particularly versatile here). Round out the meal with lemongrass pork skewers and sheets of bánh h?i, or vermicelli noodles, and wash everything down with mung bean and sago pudding for dessert.
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