Restaurateur Fah Sundravorakul talks quality ingredients, social eating and local inspiration
On the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street sits Shuang Shuang, London’s first specialist Chinese hot pot restaurant. The restaurant opened in January 2016. Inside, diners chatter away happily in front of individual steaming pots of broth, selecting choice ingredients from a conveyor belt to cook to their own tastes. Hot pot will be big this year, and Shuang Shuang's opening is playing a large part in that.
Can you explain briefly the importance of hot pot as a social dish?
Hot pot is where friends and families gather to cook, eat and be merry together. As the broth is bubbling away, we talk and bond over the hot pot table. This is what hot pot is in Asia and how I grew up to love it.
I know that on your travels across Taiwan, China & Japan you have always tried the local hot pot, as well as it being a dish you have enjoyed since childhood. What does hot pot mean to you?
To me, in whichever country it is, hot pot means great, simple and quality food. The cooking is very bare and you can't hide bad ingredients by smothering them in heavy sauces and seasonings. Hot pot is also interactive and fun. You can let your hair down and have a go at customising your own flavours.
Have any parts of your menu been particularly inspired by what’s available to you in London’s Chinatown? If so, what are they?
Most notably, our dessert of soy milk ice cream with candied ginger and crushed Youtiao (fried Chinese dough). This is a twist from my favourite childhood dish: tofu curd eaten with ginger syrup. We take the soy milk from our favourite artisanal Chinese bakery in Chinatown to make this dish. We also source our noodles from a noodle factory hidden in an alley just behind Shuang Shuang.
What is your favourite hot pot broth? What are your favourite ingredients to cook in a hot pot?
Black Bird. This is a hot pot broth made from rare breed black chicken, and a few Chinese dried herbs. We brew it until the broth turns golden and clear. It is sweet and soothing. I like adding our House Prawn Ball to the broth because not only does the prawn ball absorbs the broth well but it also adds extra dimension sweetness to the broth. Pak choi, Da Miao (Chinese pea shoots) and knot yam noodle (shirataki konnyaku nests) also go very well with Black Bird.
Do you have any hot pot top tips?
Be brave, be relaxed and just go for it. Culturally, hot pot is a very fun and simple way of eating. I would like my diners to feel the same when they come to Shuang Shuang.
What about hot pot do you think Londoners find attractive?
That you have the full control of what you eat and eat well. You can choose to eat what you want and how much you want. Hot pot, by itself, is also very healthy. At Shuang Shuang, we want to upturn stereotypes that Chinese food is full of grease and MSG. We use only natural ingredients to brew all our five broths, with no additives added. The conveyor belt also adds a fun element.
Do you any other plans for Shuang Shuang or was being able to open the restaurant reward enough in itself?
Being Chinese-Thai and growing up with hot pot, my goal is to introduce hot pot to as many people as possible and hopefully make them fall in love. Our cuisine is very new for London so we have to take our time, get everything right and communicate clearly to our diners.