My Instagram feed was filled with pictures of lavish hotpot meals last week, thanks to the sudden cold spell in Singapore.
Everyone clearly took advantage of the lower temperatures to get their fill of steaming pots of soup without having to sweat. Their photos made me drool and I developed a craving for hotpot immediately.
The thing about a hotpot meal, however, is that it is a communal activity, which means one must gather a bunch of friends or family members first. After all, the pots are usually large and designed for sharing.
I couldn't wait to see if my friends could make it for a weekend dinner. It was a regular workday and I wanted a hotpot meal for lunch.
A quick Google search turned up Shi Li Fang, a hotpot eatery from Beijing with nine outlets here. It serves individual hotpot set meals in mini pots - perfect for a solo diner like me.
I headed to the outlet in City Square Mall, but almost changed my mind about eating there as soon as I saw the place. The decor of the eatery was horrendously tacky - colourful stuffed toys of all shapes and sizes lined the walls, while plastic star lamps with smiley faces hung from the ceiling.
SHI LI FANG
Nine outlets across Singapore, including 02-53 City Square Mall, 180 Kitchener Road, open: 10am to 10pm daily
Several staff members were required to wear cartoon character caps, while one even had to don a large Pikachu mascot costume.
It is a good thing I chose to overlook the ridiculous ambience because my lunch turned out to be more than satisfactory.
One of the menus listed all of the individual set meals at $9.90++ a person, which works out to $11.60 after service charge and taxes.
Given how much food the set meals include, the price was completely worth it.
I ordered the pork combo set, which came with pork belly and marbled pork slices; a basket with vegetables, tofu, an egg and more; a choice of carbohydrates (egg noodles, handmade noodles, rice, thick beehoon or vermicelli); a drink (such as lime juice and barley); and up to two options of soup.
I went with tomato soup and tonic chicken soup and both turned out to be robust and full of flavour. Soup top-ups are free, so drink up.
There was nothing special about the pork slices, but dipped in my concoction of sesame paste, parsley, garlic and chilli padi, they were tasty. Customers can mix their own sauces from the more than 20 items available.
Meanwhile, the side basket of veggies was overflowing with so many ingredients - cabbage, tofu, fish and cuttlefish balls, crab sticks, a raw egg, tang hoon - I was already stuffed midway through it.
None of the items was of high quality - at this price, one should not expect more - but they were fresh. And my craving for hotpot was well satiated.