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CoCo Hot Pot – Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series

Still looking for solid winter foods, we found a stew for youuuuu.

CoCo Hot Pot had come up a few times when we were looking for Asian food around the city and this week we hopped on it. You know we’re partial to Helen’s Asian Kitchen when it comes to Chinese food, but anytime we get a tip there is other authentic Chinese food out there, we’re going to give it a try.

CoCo Hot Pot sits on Bethel in front of MicroCenter and pre-COVID tended to be bustling with large “make your own hot pot” style dinners. We’re unsure if they’ve opened the interior back up at all, but they’re definitely doing carryout and delivery.

The Lady of the Farm went with a large grouping of meats and veggies (there are several options where you slap in 6 ingredients) with a base sauce. We both smashed through some of the creamier crab rangoons that we’ve had, which the Lady of the Farm dubbed “the best she’d had” and then some spicy dumplings that were good, but not as good as Helen’s. Large focus on sichuan peppercorns and chili flakes which is good for some and bad for others.

Dumplings are still the best, to be clear. I could put down 20-30 without a problem, especially spicy dumplings. Spicy dumplings are not what we’re here for though, so onto the main event!

Beef stew tends to be unassuming and you’d never think one to be spicy, but add the word “spicy” at the beginning and we’re in. With the Coco Hot Pot menu, there are many spicy items to choose from, but some will look safer than others. Red Chili Oil Dumpling? In. Spicy Ox Tripe? Call us a wuss, but we’re out on that one. Singapore Rice Noodle? In. Mao Cai Pot with Duck Blood and Pork Aorta? Out. None of this to say those items aren’t any good, moreso that I’ve never been brave enough to reach that far out of my comfort food zone. (would be interested to hear what people think about those dishes)

With the standard vegetables (bell pepper, onion, other onion), and small chunks of beef, the Spicy Beef Stew appears like most other stews. That is until you see the peppercorns gleefully swimming around and the large dried peppers emanating their heat throughout the broth. The oily layer on the stew is similar to other noodle dishes with the spicy resins hanging out with the other liquids to push the heat all over the place.

On smell alone, not much heat to speak of and pouring it over rice didn’t give any additional insights. Scooping up my first spoonful, I neglected to see the couple of peppercorns I snagged. Bell pepper, meat, then a “crunch POP” that released the sichuan peppercorn numbing agent. If you’ve bitten into one of these bad boys you know the feel, but it’s definitely an initial jolt with a slight bitterness followed by a slight tingle and numbing of your mouth.

The broth has a thickness to it that coats the inside of your mouth and while a bit numb, a majority of the heat is felt at the back of the tongue. Like spicy waves, the heat rises and falls, but never gets above a small poke. Half a bowl in, my nose had yet to produce a sniffle and the rest of the bowl had me staying snotless (the title of my new EP releasing never). A pure mouth heat, but less heat and more wintertime warmth for me.

So artsy.

All things considered, the big chunks of ingredients, the prancing peppercorns and the fact that this is a stew got me thinking. Chili oil and the dried Tien Tsin peppers floating around are the drivers of the heat, but where does this rank? While it’s likely the hottest stew we’ve had so far, we’re placing it at #75 just ahead of Condado Tacos Dirty Sauce and Firecracker Shell, and just below Chile Verde Cafe’s Green Chile Stew. It’ll definitely warm you up for the winter, but there are spicier broth-based dishes in the city if that is what you seek.

You can find CoCo Hot Pot at 743 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214.

Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!

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