Fall is approaching and what better to warm oneself up than with a tongue and gut numbing hot and spicy soup? Personally I love this clear spicy broth and can have it any day in any season (though no one seems to know what I’m rambling on about when I mention steamboat)! Seven Treasures, read “qibao” in Chinese, is one of the many 10-seater restaurants in a little nook of Shibuya, and serves up a mean mala 麻辣 soup!
Mala is a signature flavor from the province of Sichuan in China, and is world renowned for its unique fragrance and spiciness that goes beyond mere heat. The soup at Chipao Maratan, as the restaurant is known in Japanese, is a variant from Shanghai and uses more than 30 spices some of which have great medicinal value. It boasts detoxification, improved digestion and circulation, as well as beauty effects from the high levels of collagen in the secret soup.
Upon entering, we were greeted warmly by the chef who briefly explained the works. We got to choose 3 ingredients from the side counter, and he would cook it with bean-starch vermicelli or 春雨 with the specified level of spiciness (from 0 to 5). All this for just ￥720! The ingredients were that of a typical Chinese hotpot: an assortment of vegetables, quail eggs, wantons, gyoza, kikurage (earwood mushroom) and yummy fried bread puffs amongst many others. We sat right in from of the chef by the bar counter as there were only 2 tables other than the bar seats. There were two huge steaming pots before him; one looked like a cauldron from hell with chilies and peppers of various shapes and sizes floating in it, and the other looked like normal clear white broth. He mixed these with some chili oil to get the desired level of spiciness. I got level 5!
While waiting for our food to cook in the boiling white broth, we looked around the shop. The décor was simple and welcoming, just like the vibes from the gentle giant of a chef. The chopsticks were wooden (not disposable ones!) and the bar counter tabletop was made of tiny mosaic tiles that formed koi pictures. Finally he handed us our bowls, and they looked mouth-wateringly delicious! There was an apt dose of chili oil to coat the noodles and ingredients; the thick layer of oil on some hotpots bothers me sometimes. The first few slurps were going down great, and I was loving the heat! 20 minutes later, during which the conversation slowly died down as we concentrated on our soups, I was sweating and panting and less than halfway through. The soup was starting to cool and that was not a good combination with spiciness. The chef smiled and took my bowl, refilling it with some white broth. Why, thank you.
Overall, the comfortable ambience and tasty authentic food definitely won us over. A red and white yin-yang hotpot is also available, where patrons get to devour both spicy and herbal soups simultaneously. Bring your hankies and get ready to sweat it out!