Spicy comfort food is the hallmark of Hot Eastern, perfect for chilly New England winter. The authentic northeastern Chinese “mala” dishes burn and numb, warming you up from the inside.
Hot Eastern is located in the former Café de Lulu, after the proprietor retired and turned her basement space over to a young couple working in the Avana food court. The menu has expanded from skewers and mala bang to include more rice and noodle options.
Mala bang starts at $7.50 for the veggie version, $9.50 for the beef and $12.50 for seafood. A flavorful soup base includes vegetables and rice vermicelli, with charges for add-ins of fishballs, tofu and sliced meat. Be careful selecting from the six levels of spiciness: No spicy, low spicy, mild spicy, medium spicy, high spicy and super spicy. As rueful Yelp reviewers can attest, super spicy is no joke. I adore fiery mala hot pots, but even the mild spicy level had me sweating in under a minute — no spicy is flavorful enough, thanks to the cumin and Chinese herbs.
Lamb skewers ($1.95 for one, $9.5 for five and $18 for 10) feature plenty of cumin and a subtle heat that doesn’t kick in until later. The fire from the spices is the perfect complement for the rich gamey lamb.
The Chinese crepe ($5.45) features fried dough, scallions, toasted sesame seeds and dark soy sauce, wrapped in an eggy scallion crepe. You can opt to add an extra egg ($1), sausage ($1) or potato slices ($2.50) to make it a wrap, but it’s plenty satisfying on its own. This is street food commonly found in Beijing and Hot Eastern’s hot crispy crepe hits the spot. It goes perfectly with hot unsweetened soy milk ($2.95).
XinJiang style fried noodles ($11.95) combine wok-fried beef, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions with more cumin.
The Beijing shredded pork ($15.95) is sweet rather than spicy, covered with scallions to counter the fatty pork. It makes for a decadent bite wrapped in a fluffy bao.
Hot Eastern has nailed authentic northern Chinese cuisine, with loyal patrons packing the place on weekends. Service is fast and friendly, making this a welcome addition to Chinatown’s food scene.
42 Beach Street
Boston, MA 02111
This post is also available in: Chinese