Hot pot is synonymous with perspiration, indigestion, and on occasion a bout of la duzi. Fewer hours in the loo is one of the main draws of Pengran Siji Coconut Chicken Hot Pot, which boasts a broth that contains substantially less sodium and grease. Written reminders of this resonate next to nearly every well-shot photograph in a menu as thick as an encyclopedia.

When the waiter plopped two on our table, I prepared myself to drown in choice before I could even begin to swim in the Hainan-style soup, but thankfully, the pages were few and made of cardboard. Choices made, thin strips of fresh coconut were dumped in the large pot and simmered alongside coral chunks of papaya. The summer fruit must have snuck in under the radar as the restaurant had promised to only serve seasonal produce, but I wasn’t complaining. It did, however, make me question whether the tender chicken had actually been butchered that same day as a restaurant review on the wall suggested.

Our waitress dumped the blanched limbs in the bubbling pot with one sweeping gesture, the final contribution to the “Natural Taste Coconut Chicken” (RMB 138) that would be the base for the hot pot.

Pengran Siji’s menu conveniently acts as a guide to which ingredients best go with which hot pot bases, but we went with the basic veggie and meat platter (RMB 58 for two). Soy sauce, ginger, chopped chillies, and two Calamansi limes made for a refreshingly light dipping sauce, although admittedly, majiang was dearly missed.

Hot pots are supplemented with a range of southern-style side dishes, like a crispy claypot rice topped with Cantonese-style preserved meat (RMB 58), a rich green stir-fry of sweet beans, lily and shrimp (RMB 48), and the signature rice fried with kiwi, raisins, shrimp and pork floss, served in a hollowed-out coconut (RMB 42). It was a hauling, but once the last of it had been devoured, the only discomfort in the stomach came from the feeling of being full. 

Pengran Siji Chicken Hot Pot
Daily 11am-10pm, 11am-midnight (summer). 2/F, Borui Dasha, 26A Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District (6516 7211)

A version of this article appears in the March 2014 issue of the Beijinger.

Photo: Ken

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