Zapp Hot Pot Set-UP (Image Credit: Nicholas VonSchantz-Ricci)

When driving along Nashua Road in Londonderry, it’s hard to not to get distracted by the constant display of gas stations, supermarkets and plazas that occupy the area. Inside one of these plazas resides a humble little eatery offering a unique variety of dining experiences that is very difficult to find in the granite state.

Bangkok Thai Food opened three years ago as an authentic Thai restaurant serving up all the classics, such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup and Basil Fried Rice. A few years later, the Nakayone family decided to expand upon their business to include Thai-style Hot Pot. In May of 2018, Zapp Hot Pot opened its doors and quickly became a destination for hot pot enthusiasts in the area.

Dining at a hot pot restaurant is an entirely unique and interactive experience. The process involves ordering raw vegetables, proteins and starches, rather than complete dishes. The ingredients are brought to the table, and the diner is in charge of cooking the ingredients in a pot of simmering broth. While the idea of cooking your own food at a restaurant may seem unusual, the concept has begun to gain acceptance across the United States.

“We wanted something new and different in this area,” said Emily Nakayone, co-owner of Bangkok Thai Food and Zapp Hot Pot. “Some say hot pot is Chinese, some say it’s Japanese…but the Thai word for Hot Pot is ‘Suki.’ There are a lot of popular shops in Thailand [for] Hot Pot.”

The broth itself is the most important component of the hot pot experience. In addition to chicken and vegetable broths, there is a spicy broth that contains fresh Thai herbs and can be adjusted according to heat preference.

The protein, vegetable and starch selections at Zapp are nearly endless. Chicken, steak, pork belly, pork dumplings and pork meatballs are offered for carnivores, while shrimp, squid, scallops, salmon, shrimp dumplings and fish balls are available for those wanting a taste of the sea. Vegetables include broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, onion, spinach, napa cabbage, corn, mushrooms and more, making hot pot suitable for vegetarians. Rounding out the menu are five types of noodles, rice and a trio of Thai sauces for dipping.

Those who have never experienced hot pot before may be a bit confused or hesitant during their first visit, but every table is equipped with written instructions. A video showcasing the proper method is also broadcast at the front of the dining room.

“It’s very simple. If you just try the first time, you’ll be an expert the second time,” said Nakayone.

Upon walking in, it’s impossible not to notice the eccentric sky-blue interior. A mural featuring everything from a carousel to ice cream to a hat-wearing octopus is on full display. The painting was done by Nakayone’s niece, and it serves to reinforce the happiness that is felt while eating hot pot.

Hot Pot is a type of cuisine that should be on everyone’s radar. It’s fun, approachable, interactive and flavorful. Don’t let the strip mall setting fool you; this is the real deal. The Hot Pot side of the operation is not marked by a sign, so look out for the “Bangkok Thai Food” sign instead.

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