Mala Hot Pot (Food Studio).

Hot Pot isn't uncommon in Colombo, but the first one of that kind in a food court in Sri Lanka would be Mala Hot Pot located on the 2nd floor of Food Studio. A few weeks ago, YAMU was invited for the launching of Mala Hot Pot, and I remember enjoying a giant, bubbly hot pot oozing out with spices, while I toss in veggies, seafood and meats as I like.
This was back then. A hot pot with a Ying Yang design, placed on a cooker. On one side, there was the Mushroom broth, while the other side was filled with Mala spicy broth loaded with Sichuan peppers and chilli that have flown all the way from China. We were offered with platefuls of veggies, leaves, meats and seafood, which we can throw into the broth as we prefer. It was a very lively and energetic process. 
 
However, this time around, my experience was a little bit different. 

Ko Hot Pot?

As you walk towards Mala Hot Pot, the first thing you're going to notice is the sheer range of leaves, veggies and meats they have. 

The leaf section is comprised of Chinese cabbage, coriander, kang kung and bok choy etc., while the veggies featured stuff like seaweed, carrot, lotus root and different kinds of tofu. 
There are around 4 types of mushrooms to pick – milky mushroom, black mushroom and button mushroom to name a few. The selection of proteins include prawns, cuttlefish, beef balls, chicken balls, marinated chicken, chicken sausages and even tofu-based sausages. 

For those of you who haven't been to Mala Hot Pot yet, ordering from this place involves four steps. 

1) Get a steel plate from the counter

2) Pick your leaves and veggies

3) Tell how much proteins you want in your meals – i.e. how many prawns, how many chicken balls

4) Select the spicy level – "medium" is recommended

We filled our steel plate with a little bit of everything on the display. The price point of the hot pot depends on the weight of the veggies, leaves and meats you choose for it, and ours was a meal for two, which came to an even Rs. 3742 (500 grams of veggies, 130 grams of meats, and 275 grams of seafood) with two portions of White Sticky Rice (Rs. 250 each). 

So after ordering, we were looking forward with so much excitement for our sizzling Mala hot pot to arrive. There was a hot pot on our table, and we were awaiting with the hope that the staff will fix it up, pour the mushroom broth and Mala broth side by side, so we can have our way with it. 

Then my buzzer rang, and this was placed on the counter for me to collect.

Umm,… ko Hot Pot?

No hot pot, no mushroom broth, no spicy broth. Just leaves, veggies and meats stir-fried with Mala sauce served on a plate. 

It was quite confusing, really, and when we inquired the staff manning the counter, we were told that this does not come with a broth or a hot pot – just stir-fried. 

Anyway, each and every element here was cooked to perfection, smothered with the deliciously spicy Mala sauce, so it quite packs a punch. We liked how they've retained the crunchiness of the lotus root, the delightful chewiness of the mushroom and the flavours of the meats. The sauce, in fact, enhanced the taste, instead of shielding it.

The white sticky rice on the side comes in handy when you want to take it down a notch, have some break and relief from all the spices hitting your palate while balancing out the flavours. 

Service

The ordering process was smooth. The staff was quick, kind enough to provide help in picking up our ingredients. And even the place was gushed with customers, they still managed to ready our plate within around 10 minutes. 

Conclusion

Despite the whole "no hot pot" at Mala Hot Pot situation, we liked our food here. However Rs. 4000 rupees for a stir-fried dish accompanied by sticky rice is in question. Nonetheless, it's uniquely flavoured, and a wonderful choice for us Lankans who do not prefer mildly spiced Chinese dishes. 

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