Intro to Asian Fondue: 5 NoVA Spots For Hot Pot

Posted by / Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Jonathan Timmes

Skewers and shared pots aren’t just for cheese and chocolate fondue. Hot pot (sometimes called Asian fondue) is a simmering metal pot full of broth and is brought out with fish, meats and vegetables, some raw and some pre-cooked. It’s a leisurely meal, as you plop fish cakes and leaves of bok choy in the broth, letting it warm. You set the pace of the meal, letting as many items as you want float in the pot. 

Here’s a breakdown of 5 hot pots in the area, including exactly what ingredients you’ll find at each restaurant.

1) Mala Tang
Mala Tang is one of the few spots in NoVA that offer Chinese-style fondue (also known as shabu shabu or hot pot). Choose from the traditional mala hot or mild spiced broth and order mixed vegetables, meats (check out the milk marinated beef!), dumplings, or fish balls a la carte. A few unique hot pot items include sweet potato noodles, lobster tail, lotus root and more. Standout appetizers include the spicy dan dan noodles and traditional Chinese green onion pancakes. 3434 Washington Blvd., Arlington.

2) Rice Paper
Opened last year, Rice Paper is one of the newer restaurants at Eden Center with classy-mod ambiance. Hot pots are served tableside on a portable burner with either a hot pot broth or Thai-style spicy broth between plates of seafood, fish balls, beef, tofu and mixed vegetables.  6775 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church.

3) The Hot Spot
Possibly the only place where you can find hot pot and a drink for Harry Potter fans, Hot Spot is the newest of shabu shabu restaurants in NoVA, and the only one that offers all-you-can-eat. Order from unlimited dishes of marinated beef, scallops, shrimp balls, dumplings and more from this trendy new restaurant styled in light wooden tables with dark black walls. Broth comes in four different flavors, including regular, spicy, herbal and kimchi. The Hot Spot uses all fresh seafood (not frozen) from a sushi vendor. Still not impressed? Another item unique to Hot Spot is their Hawaiian-styled spam masubi–a slice of spam and rice wrapped in triangle of dried seaweed. 3232 Old Pickett Road, Fairfax.

4) Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot
Sister restaurant to Mala Tang—Uncle Liu’s is a more casual hot pot option located in the heart of Merrifield. Just a few blocks down from the Mosaic District, Uncle Liu’s also offers mala hot and regular broth for hot pot. Unlike Mala Tang, Uncle Liu’s offers a wider variety of Chinese cuisine, including Chengdu salt and pepper jumbo shrimp, kung pao chicken, shrimp tempura and exotic dishes like sauteed frog legs and stir-fried eels. 2972 Gallows Road, Merrifield.

5) Huong Viet
Just a few doors down from Rice Paper, Huong Viet is one of the few restaurants in Eden Center that has been around for almost three decades, serving some of the area’s most popular Vietnamese dishes like banh canh tom cua (Vietnamese shrimp udon) and bo luc lac (shaky beef). Like Rice Paper, Huong Viet also offers a table side option to enjoy hot pot over a portable burner with house-made broth and prepared combinations of either sweet and sour tamarind fish soup (LẪU CÁ BÔNG LAU), or mixed seafood and vegetables (LẪU ÐÒ BIiỄN). 6785 Wilson Boulevard, Falls Church.

Jonathan Timmes

How do the options at each restaurant compare?


Mala Tang

Rice Paper

The Hot Spot

Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot

Huong Viet


prawns, scallops, squid, flounder, surf clams, lobster tail, fish balls, shrimp balls, lobster balls, crab stick, arctic shellfish

shrimp, mussels, squid, fish balls, fish cakes

crab, shrimp, mussels, fish, squid, scallops, octopus, clams, tilapia, flounder, crawfish, shrimp balls, fish balls, fish cakes

shrimp, scallops, squid, fish fillet, fish ball, crab

shrimp, scallops, squid, fish balls, catfish


sirloin, mala beef, NY strip, wine marinated beef, milk marinated beef, ribeye, ox tripe, chicken, pork, pork intestine, lamb, spam

beef, ox tail

beef, pork, lamb, chicken, house marinated meats, prime rib, brisket, pork balls, beef tripe, beef balls

tender beef, spicy beef, pork, chicken



traditional or vegetarian (both available mala or mild)

spicy Thai style, spicy beef broth, regular, spicy lemongrass

Chinese-style mala, herbal with ginger, Korean/Japanese-style fish-based, Korean kimchi

chicken, vegetable

sweet and sour tamarind, regular


house-made vegetable soy, DIY sauce bar

soy sauce, fish sauce

house spicy, house sesame, DIY sauce bar with 20 items

sesame, oyster, peanut, DIY sauce bar

fish sauce


dumplings, sweet potato, egg

rice, egg

udon, clear, rice, dumplings

potato, wax flour, egg, green bean thread, flat

rice or rice noodles

Selection Type

combinations, a la carte

set menu

select your ingredients, all-you-can-eat

a la carte

set menu

 Additional reporting by Teresa E. Philipp


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3 Responses

Why are you calling hot pot "fondue" Says:

Why is hot pot introduced in this article as “Asian Fondue”? Fondue is a cheese based dish or sometimes chocolate based. I have never seen a soup called a fondue. The headline is whitewashing at its worst.

tomaj Says:

Fondue in Europe certainly can be broth or oil-based and designed for cooking the items, not just dipping, though the cheese/chocolate type is far more comment.

But in general, the previous comment is spot on. Nobody says “Asian fondue”. Unless you’re especially talking about Japanese shabu-shabu, everyone says “hot pot”.

Hot pot really isn’t a main vietnamese dish. There are many Viet restaurants that will offer it (both in and out f the Eden Center), not just the ones listed above. But you may find their style is more of a “make your own soup” rather than the Chinese style.

Susan Choi Says:

Pho Aura in Centreville also has hot pot :)

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