Choose your own adventure – isthmus _ madison, wisconsin

Dining at Mini Hot Pot, one of the newest and most buzzed-about restaurants in the South Park Street corridor, is as much an educational experience as it is a delicious one.

The charming little spot specializes in a classic East Asian style of soup (also known by the Japanese name shabu-shabu) in which meats and vegetables are cooked, fondue style, in a simmering cauldron of broth. Italian sausage zucchini pasta recipes Traditionally, the hot pot is a communal dining experience, but Mini Hot Pot offers individual meals that diners cook on electric burners built right into the tabletops.

From the start, the hot pot is customizable — pick a protein (such as beef, pork, chicken, crab, or a seafood medley), then choose a broth base (there’s spicy Sichuan, coconut, Korean kimchi, mushroom, and spicy-sour Thai). Italian turkey sausage recipe In addition, hot pot combos come with a well-appointed vegetable tray, piled high with fresh spinach, Napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms and corn on the cob. Recipe ground italian sausage Plus there’s an array of extras like fish cakes, fish balls, beef balls, mini sausages, clams, a shrimp dumpling, a crab stick, tofu and a slice of Spam.

Italian sausage bow tie pasta recipe There’s also the option to order ingredients a la carte — perhaps a good option for a second visit, once you’ve identified your favorites.

Once you order, head to the noodle bar, where there’s even more fun stuff to add to your hot pot — unlimited soba and vermicelli noodles, raw eggs, sliced potato and sweet potato. Italian sausage pasta recipes Grab what you’d like and set it aside for when the broth arrives. Italian sausage recipes food network Finally, there are sauces and the condiment bar, where you’ll find minced garlic, chili oil, hoisin, Taiwanese barbecue, Mongolian sauce, sesame paste, fermented bean curd, leek-and-chive pesto, ground peanuts, cilantro, jalapeños, green onions. Italian sausage soup recipe olive garden Mix up whatever seems appetizing or try them individually. Sweet italian sausage soup recipe If you can’t find a flavor you like here, there is truly no hope for you.

You with me so far? That’s the easy part. Potato and italian sausage recipe Luckily, Mini Hot Pot co-owners Amy and Vincent Chang (head chef and lead server, respectively) are on hand to guide inexperienced hot potters through the meal, offering tips on how long to cook each ingredient and providing friendly, impeccable service. Italian sausage meat recipe More than once, I saw them swoop in to rescue struggling diners by providing a ladle, an extra napkin or a splash of hot water when the broth started running low. Italian sausage recipe ideas Originally from Taiwan, Vincent Chang moved to the U.S. Italian sausage skillet recipe to study hospitality and managed the food court at a HyVee in DeKalb, Ill., before coming to Madison.

Wanting to visit both ends of the flavor spectrum, my date and I order Sichuan broth (the spiciest option, clocking in at four chili pepper icons) with beef, and the coconut broth (the mildest) with seafood. Hot italian turkey sausage recipe We pledge to share. Italian sausage recipe homemade The food arrives promptly on beautifully arranged platters — thinly sliced beef, prawns, scallops, squid, clams and two of the biggest mussels I’ve ever seen. Pasta with italian sausage recipe The broth, already hot, starts bubbling quickly once the burner is on. Spaghetti italian sausage recipe The Sichuan comes thick with chilis and peppercorns. Homemade italian sausage recipe It’s flavorful and pleasantly mouth-numbing. Sausage italian recipe The coconut is lightly sweet with a hint of cream, a perfect tabula rasa for a hot pot journey.

Since my knowledge of hot pot was limited to the instruction “just make your own soup,” I made the mistake of throwing a bunch of stuff in at once, thinking I would end up with a bowl of soup. Italian sausage pasta recipe That is incorrect, I quickly learned. Italian sausage hoagie recipe The trick to a perfect hot pot is timing. Italian sausage recipe food network Bigger vegetables, like corn and potato, take the longest. Italian sausage recipe with rice Toss them in the broth first and let them hang out for a bit. Italian sausage pasta recipe white sauce Then, cook individual bites as you go, dipping each ingredient in your chosen sauce. Best italian sausage pasta recipe (Take care when handling raw ingredients and try not to cross-contaminate. Mild italian chicken sausage recipes You can “sterilize” the chopsticks in the boiling broth.) Finish with noodles, which require just a quick dip in the hot broth. Turkey italian sausage recipe And the best part? The flavor changes as the soup cooks, making the entire meal a fun, surprising, exploratory event.

During lunch, the restaurant also offers some favorite Americanized Chinese dishes (sesame chicken, orange chicken and the like). Fresh italian sausage recipe The entrees are affordable, generously portioned and way above average — on a return visit, my sesame chicken had big chunks of white meat, lightly fried, not drowning in sauce. Recipe to make italian sausage They come with white rice and a fried spring roll. Italian sausage recipe easy Try the homemade bubble tea, too.