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Boost your taste buds at Savory Hot Pot

A photo of hot pot at Savory Hot Pot in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Xioahui Zhang

I love hot pot so much, whether it’s organizing a hot pot with friends at home or enjoying a well-prepared one in a restaurant. There are only two hot pot places in Champaign right now. Different from all-you-can-eat style hot pot at Kung Fu BBQ, Savory Hot Pot offers various types of food. Located next to the entrance of Fresh International Market, this place has become popular these days, and I’m going to walk you through couple of signature dishes here.

Most of people come here for the hot pot. Diners can order a soup base for your own individual pot or share a big pot with a group of people. Diners can choose from flavors of more mushroom-type of veggie soup or a more spicy type with beef oil. The restaurant is still adding new flavors to the menu, and I’m really looking forward to them. There is no standard or average cost for a hot pot usually since different people enjoy different amount of ingredients and at different price ranges. I would say it is usually around $35 to $40 per person for a meal like this. You can order whatever you like, and it is served raw for you to cook in boiled soup base and enjoy eating right away.

A photo of hot pot at Savory Hot Pot in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Xiaohui Zhang

I like to order a half-half soup base with one side of very spicy flavor for the meat and the other side with gentle but savory flavor for veggies. If you don’t know what type of meat to order for the first time, I would suggest the combination plate which included quail egg, fried tofu puff, shrimp paste, ham, beef tripe, and mini sausages. There’s also a sauce bar where diners can make their own customized sauce to dip the cooked meat. The umami and savory flavors of enjoying the fresh ingredients right after it has been cooked is amazing. The meat we had was tender and the freshness of the veg were maintained by cooking them in a time-controlled manner.

Xiaohui Zhang

In addition to hot pot, Malatang is a variation of hot pot where all the food is cooked in the kitchen and then served. The soup of Malatang is usually a savory and creamy broth, but you can ask for different levels of spiciness when ordering. The price of a Malatang also varies depending on how many ingredients are ordered. I like ordering Malatang sometimes because simply I want to have a “cooler” meal without the boiling pot. The creamy flavor was immersed into every one of those ingredients which I loved so much. The average cost per person is around $20 to $25, a bit cheaper than hot pot since the broth is fixed for this dish.

A spicy soup with lots of vegetables at Savory Hot Pot. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Xiaohui Zhang

Another type of soup-based dish is called Maocai, which is very similar to Malatang but with a stronger, richer, and spicier soup. I don’t really recommend the soup of Maocai since it’s a bit oily compared to the Malatang, which is pretty good instead. This Maocai dish is specifically targeted at people who are extremely passionate about spicy food and have a higher tolerance level for heat. We paid $20 to $25 similar to what we paid for Malatang.

At Savory Hot Pot, they also serve other dishes that are without a soup or a broth. I would highly recommend the fried skewers, and they are perfectly paired with a beer.

Dry drubbed beef skewers on a black plate at Savory Hot Pot in Champaign. Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Xiaohui Zhang

All skewers are deep fried and rubbed with spices and sauces before serving to the table. The fried skewered meat had a crispy texture outside with tenderness and juiciness inside. I usually like to order meat skewers of beef, lamb, wings, and chicken skins. For veggies, I usually go with sliced potatoes, green beans, and oyster mushroom. I love fried skewers for supper since the restaurant stays open until midnight sometimes. Since I usually order fried skewers for a late night supper just to chat with friends, and I normally spend around $15 to $20 on this.

There are a wide range of dished from a simple fried rice to an iced dessert. The menu is updated all the time with new items. I’m really looking forward to try more dishes here, and I think Savory Hot Pot is definitely a great place to enjoy a fantastic meal with a group of friends.

Savory Hot Pot
inside Fresh International Market
505 S Neil St
T-F 5 p.m. to midnight
Sa+Su noon to midnight

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