FUUD: The hot pot craze

It seems like every new restaurant popping up lately has something to do with boiling water.

Shabu Shabu King recently opened near Puck’s Alley. Hot Pot Heaven recently earned an Ilima Award. And Hanaki Japanese Restaurant in Manoa ditched the typical sit-down format and teishoku menu for hot pots only.

Let’s face, hot pots are hot.

The question is, why?

How did a thousand-year-old dish — usually served during cold months in climates hardly similar to Hawaii — get so popular so fast?

The thing is, hot pots and shabu shabu have been around for awhile. But lately — and I mean, since Sweet Home Cafe opened a few years ago — the concept has become all the rage.

Don’t believe me?

Try to get into Sweet Home Cafe for dinner without waiting longer than an hour.

So what is it? The healthy style of cooking meats and veggies? Is it the variety of dipping sauces? Is it the ambiance, the long lines, the feeling that you’re part of the cool kids who swish their beef tongues and chicken testicles in lightly flavored broths?

I know why I’ve loved hot pots — shabu shabu, huō guō, lāu, whatever — for a long time.

It’s simple. It’s fast. And it’s good.

You grab whatever ingredients you want, be it thinly sliced beef or baby bak choi or pork blood. And you cook them in the broth of your choice. In less than a minute, you’re dipping fully cooked beef slices into a rich ponzu sauce and eating it with a bowl a hot white rice.

What could be better than that?

Well, one thing: dessert. And this shave ice concoction at Sweet Home Cafe — with fruit jellies, mochi balls and coffee-flavored flan — is worth the 90-minute wait, sometimes in the rain.

So where’s your favorite hot pot restaurant? And what do you make of the craze?

Sweet Home Cafe, 2334 S. King St. Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. daily. Phone: (808) 947-3707