Most people first know of Spice World because of their mala hotpot thanks to their creative dishes. The hotpot restaurant that originated in China has become synonymous with their mala broths that come packed as a ‘mala butter’ in the shape of a Hello Kitty or a teddy bear.
Just in case you haven’t heard of Spice World (also known as 香天下 in Chinese), the restaurant is one of China’s top 10 hotpot restaurant chains. The hotpot restaurant has now opened up an overseas branch here in Clarke Quay, right next to F.Club.
Back to the Hello Kitty mala butter, because the global craze for Sanrio’s most popular character is also very popular in China. The mala butter will cost you an additional $9.90, but you also get to have the pleasure of watching Hello Kitty melt into a delicious pot of mala soup.
There’s a certain sort of morbid ambivalence as the waiter pours soup into the hotpot and you watch your mala butter slowly infuse into the white broth. All phones will promptly be whipped out, although you should be prepared to wait a while because the bear/ Hello Kitty doesn’t instantly melt.
It’s not all gimmicky thought – as quoted by my colleague, Spice World’s mala soup can fight Hai Di Lao’s one. We chose our mala level as mild, and while I thought it was way too spicy for me to handle, my colleague who loves spicy food said that it was just the right level of spicyness. All I can say is that be prepared to be sweating loads of you decide to go for the most spicy level.
This bear stewing in its own sweat.
We were told that the Hello Kitty butter melted faster (for reasons unknown). The soup also contains mala chillies air flown from the mountains in Guizhou and Sichuan. Another reason to go for the mala soup: our host from Spice World was saying that the girls from Sichuan have such nice skin because of the amount of mala and soup they drink.
Besides the mala soup, there are other soup bases to choose from – pork belly and chicken, chicken, wild mushroom, tomato, tom-yam, and curry. Just like every other hotpot restaurants, you can choose to have a mix of two soups (Yin-Yang Two-Flavour Broth, $22.90) or even three (Benz Three-Flavour if one soup isn’t enough. All soups are all full of flavour even though no artificial flavouring or MSG is used; the flavour comes from the boiling of the soups for at least 4 to 6 hours before they can be served.
With over 80 ala carte dishes to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide what to get. We’ve tried some of their more popular dishes, and here’s what we will definitely order when we go back!
5 Spice Powder Deep Fried Pork Slices, $12.90
It might seem ridiculous if you came all the way to a hotpot place just to order cooked meat for an appetiser. Isn’t the point of a hotpot to cook all your meat in the soup? But I was surprised how delicious the tender deep fried pork slices were, because fried pork tends to become very dry after cooking. This is a must-try, even if you’re using it as a filler to keep your stomach occupied while waiting for your Hello Kitty mala butter to melt in your soup.
Glutinous Rice Cake With Brown Sugar, $7.90
Another simple yet satisfying appetiser – the Glutinous Rice Cakes. There isn’t many carb options on the menu, with another popular option being the Handmade Da Shao Mian ($3.90). I’m not one for rice cakes, but I’ll pick these rice cakes over noodles for a change. Even if you abandon your rice cakes for the other dishes, the rice cakes will still be delicious when eaten cold!
Barbie Wagyu, $38.90
Another gimmmicky dish, the Barbie Wagyu has been likened to Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress and it’s hard to see why not. While most people would order this for the novelty of it (some people thought that it was very disturbing), the Wagyu meat is actually pretty good. The thinly sliced meat is super tender and chewy, and doesn’t take long to cook. Just pop the meat into teh boiling soup for about 5~10 seconds, and it’s ready to be eaten. And yes, that 10 seconds is enough for the mala to soak into the meat for a burst of spicy-ness with every bite. Just remember to snap a pic before you start undressing the Barbie!
If you’re worried about hygiene because the dolls are reused, we noted that every Barbie’s body is wrapped in cling-wrap before the meat is laid on her.
Shrimp & Tobiko Paste, $18.90
While you would tend to avoid food like fishballs in favour of actual seafood at hotpot places, you have to order the Shrimp & Tobiko Paste at Spice World. The shrimp paste blend comes packed into these long wooden containers, and you have to scrape them into little lumps into your broth, kind of like fishballs. Since the shrimp paste is made in-house, it tastes much fresher than your typical fishballs. The Tobiko (fish eggs) also gives each bite an additional burst of umami. Yum!
King Bamboo Shoots $18.90
Take a break from all the meat with some bamboo shoots, apparently a must-order whenever you go eat hotpot (but something I’ve never ordered). Usually you would cook them in your normal chicken soup, but I found that cooking the extra crunchy bamboo shoots in the mala soup was definitely more shiok.
Clarke Quay, River Valley Rd, #01-06/07 3B, 179021
Open daily from 10.30am to 4am