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Padthai Hotpot & Grill: A hands-on lesson in Aberdeen’s newest self-serve dining experience

I picked up the egg and held it over the boiling oil, ready to crack.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Karla asked in a tone of voice that firmly suggested I didn’t.

The egg paused, hovering in midair as I pondered the situation.

I’d hotpotted before whereas for Karla this was the first time. I knew the egg was supposed to go in the broth that was bubbling away in front of me. But how? Hard boiled? Poached? Scrambled?

I could feel the eyes of the restaurant on me.

Can you hotpot and grill?

It is a situation no doubt familiar – a visit to a new style of restaurant where some kind of prior knowledge seems essential to prevent you from looking like a clueless idiot.

At Padthai Hotpot & Grill, which has just opened on Union Street in Aberdeen, there is – for some diners, at least – the prospect of two unfamiliar experiences.

First, there is the hotpot, which Padthai is bringing to Aberdeen for the first time.

The hotpot is divided into two types of broth.

Used extensively in the spice capitals of East Asia, hotpot cooking can bewilder the first-timer not used to its self-serve ethos.

Then there is the grill – basically a griddle plate set in a ring around the hotpot. This is used to dry fry slices of meat in similar way to a Korean barbecue.

For both the hotpot and the grill, the customer cooks their own food. And herein lies the great joy of hotpot – you decide when and for how long you grill or boil each item. It’s like being in charge of your own mini kitchen!

Padthai hotpot grill lesson
The grill is great for cooking meat.

For the newcomer, however, this responsibility can induce unhealthy levels of social anxiety. Hence the sudden feeling that I was way out of my depth.

A lesson in jumping right in

Fortunately, when it comes to hot pot “there is no wrong way to do it”, says Richard Speak, who along with business partner Stacey Sahawongwattana opened Padthai last month.

The two joined forces when Stacey relocated her previous Thai restaurant – called just Padthai – from its spot in Aberdeen Market.

Karla and I are getting an early look at the restaurant, and a lesson from Richard and Stacey in throwing caution to the wind when faced with what for many in Aberdeen may at first seem like a daunting experience.

Their expert recommendation? Just jump right in.

“We’ve had a few Aberdonians come in and try it for the first time,” says Richard, who compares hotpot to self-service culinary experiences such as fondue or raclette.

“Once they’ve got the hang of it, they’ve loved it.”

Padthai Hotpot & Grill guide:

The format is simple. Customers order portions of vegetables, seafood, meat and noodles, which are brought to the table prepared but uncooked.

For the hotpot, there are two broths to cook the ingredients in, usually one spicy and one plain. The partitioned broths allows anyone who is not a fan of spice to stick to the plainer side.

It also gives people with an allergy or intolerance the option to cook their food separately.

The ingredients are brought to the table prepared but raw.

Meanwhile, the grill is simplicity itself. Pick a slice of meat and get cooking. Dipping sauces in a range of spicyness are on hand to add extra flavour.

And if it all seems too much, Padthai has an a la carte menu from which customers can order Thai favourites and the restaurant’s own special dishes.


Ordering for Padthai’s hotpot and grill is done by portion. A portion of beef slices, for example, is £3.90, while an egg is £1.

This allows you to try all sorts of different ingredients to cook and can be tailored to suit every taste. The restaurant also has some set menu options that simplify the process.

I like to get lots of vegetables plus a few meat portions, but it really is up to you.

Don’t forget to order noodles. They’re great for a tasty noodle soup at the end of the meal.

The menu at Padthai Hotpot & Grill.

The verdict

Once past my egg anxiety, I managed to get into the swing of things. Turns out that as long as you crack it in the general direction of the hotpot, the egg is unlikely to end up on your face.

Because of my shellfish allergy, I stuck to non-seafood ingredients cooked in the clear broth and left Karla to the prawns and scallops on the spicy side.

Stacey told us that Padthai offers a range of spicy broths including the Tom Yum we had as well as flavours such as tamarind and sukiyaki.

Padthai hotpot grill lesson
Pork belly cooked to perfection.

My side of the broth was more than tasty enough. I especially enjoyed the cauliflower – cooked to perfection, of course, by yours truly.

A unique Aberdeen experience

The pork belly was the star of the grill as the fat combined deliciously with the meat. It took me a couple of tries but I eventually managed to get the right level of crispy, which meshed perfectly with the soy sauce dip.

We also got to discover the social element to hotpot. Karla and I had great fun comparing our cooking and swapping tips. Get a bunch of friends together on a Friday night, add some beers and you have a unique Aberdeen experience.

Padthai hotpot grill lesson
Eating hotpot is a great social experience.

Karla’s view: Where to start with my recent hotpot experience? Being that it was my first time trying the cooking process, I had little idea of what to expect when tucking in.

But despite this, it was all made very clear as soon as Andy and I caught a glimpse of our delicious-looking ingredients and, of course, the hotpot itself.

This was not Andy’s first rodeo so he informed me of exactly what we needed to do. It really was as easy as he described.

Padthai Hotpot & Grill is great for groups.

Not only is it a simple process, but it’s also entertaining and fun.

The raw ingredients on offer, which included everything from vegetables, tofu and noodles to thinly sliced meat and seafood, were fresh and tasty – particularly the pork.

The broths had bundles of flavour, too. I would say with the utmost confidence that there is something for everyone on offer.

For more taste tests…