The famed Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup is said to be a delicacy so delicious that it was the centrepiece at state banquets for decades, including those for Queen Elizabeth II. This Chinese New Year, Empire Hotpot will be offering limited-edition festive steamboat menus, one of which features a Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup base— so you can finally dine like royalty!
Empire Hotpot is a steamboat restaurant and you can find it on the 5th floor of Ngee Ann City in Orchard.
Though relatively new, having opened in Aug 2021, Empire Hotpot has set itself apart from other steamboat joints with its unique soup bases and handmade dishes. Permanently on the menu is the well-loved Empire Supreme Lobster Broth, which features half a lobster, and not forgetting the premium Fish Maw & Shark’s Cartilage Soup, which is rich in collagen.
Hidden behind its simple storefront is a lavish and sleek dining area. I loved how polished everything looked— all the way from its large, spacious white dining tables to its origami-like hanging decor.
More importantly, I absolutely appreciate how the dining spaces were planned out. Each dining group has their own booth, with comfortable plush seating and a table so large that it can easily fit 8 people comfortably. No more having to sit elbow-to-elbow while indulging in hotpot anymore!
What I tried at Empire Hotpot
For Chinese New Year, Empire Hotpot has come up with 6 festive steamboat menus that cater to dining parties from 4 to 12 pax. These menus will run from 9 Jan to 5 Feb 2023, and pre-booking is already available now.
Each menu is comprehensive and starts with the Prosperity Hamachi Yu Sheng, comes with a hotpot broth or two (depending on the menu), appetisers to whet your palate, platters that include handmade dumplings, vegetables, seafood and premium meats, and ends off with dessert and bunny buns.
We tried Empire Hotpot’s CNY Set for 6 (S$980++, early bird price S$888++). This is a whopping 9-course steamboat menu, and it’s the only one to feature the elusive and ultra-luxe Buddha Jumps Over the Wall hotpot base, which is already worth S$338!
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is a legendary Fujian dish. Also known as 佛跳墙 (fo tiao qiang), it earned its name thanks to its heavenly aroma, which tempted vegetarian monks to jump over the wall and break their vows of abstaining from meat just to have a sip!
This centuries-old classic is renowned for using ingredients that are the cream of the crop, and Empire Hotpot’s recipe aims to be as authentic as possible.
The soup broth comes accompanied by a bowl of expensive delicacies on the side for you to add at your own pace, featuring ingredients such as abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, pig’s trotter, dried scallops, shark’s fin and mushrooms.
This was a stellar soup that was packed with savoury flavours. While its texture remained clean and supple, there were strong notes of salty umami thanks to Jinhua ham (金华火腿, aka dry-cured ham) and the other premium ingredients that were used in the soup.
Empire Hotpot’s CNY Set for 6 starts out with the Prosperity Hamachi Yu Sheng (Large), which unfortunately we were unable to try. However, we were treated to 4 appetisers, all of which are made in-house: Salted Egg Yolk Fish Skin, Marinated Black Fungus, Fish Roe Fortune Bag, and Cucumber with Minced Garlic.
Out of the 4, my personal favourite was the Salted Egg Yolk Fish Skin, where thick, large chunks of crispy fish skin were coated in a generous amount of rich salted egg yolk seasoning. Coming in as a close second was the Fish Roe Fortune Bag, an adorable appetiser where beancurd skins were folded to resemble money bags and stuffed with fish roe.
A true labour of love, Empire Hotpot’s Dumpling Platters are all made by hand. As part of the CNY Set for 6, you’ll be able to enjoy the Fresh Shrimp Dumpling (8 pieces) and Four Treasure Ball.
I really enjoyed the Four Treasure Ball, which came with beef & coriander meatballs, shrimp balls, fish balls and pork meatballs. These hand-formed balls were really QQ and fresh, and made for satisfying meaty bites.
Apart from the Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup base, the platter that I was most looking forward to were the seafood platters. This came with 3 types of fresh seafood: Live Prawn (12 Pieces), Marble Goby (Whole Fish) and Australian Scallop (2 portions).
The service at Empire Hotpot was impeccable, with staff offering to help cook and deshell the skewered prawns, so we didn’t even need to get our hands dirty at all!
Impressively, the prawns were deshelled so well and so cleanly that even the tail meat was intact— a sure sign that the prawns used were fresh.
As a person who typically doesn’t go for prawns during a steamboat for fear that I’d end up wrestling with my prawn shell for half the meal, this was incredibly well appreciated.
What’s a hotpot without meat? Empire Hotpot’s CNY Set for 6 comes with 2 meat platters: Shirobuta Pork Belly, and your choice between US Sliced Beef and Kurobuta Pork Collar. Both platters come with plenty of marbling and fat for that melt-in-your-mouth experience.
If this isn’t enough meat for you, note that you can choose to order additional portions of meat from the à la carte menu, but it’s best to let the staff know ahead of time (ideally 3 days in advance).
Be sure to pair your meats with Empire Hotpot’s homemade Empire Signature XO Sauce (1 bottle)! Made with the chef’s secret recipe, it’s packed with umami-filled notes from the XO sauce, shallots and dried shrimp.
As the Empire Signature XO Sauce is made in limited amounts, note that a bottle will be given only for diners who have made reservations or ordered for take-away.
To add a little kick to your Buddha Jumps Over the Wall steamboat, Empire Hotpot’s CNY Set for 6 includes a Drunken Chicken with Chinese Wine. I absolutely loved the aromatic touch that the Chinese wine added to the already rich broth, making it extra fragrant!
End off your meal at Empire Hotpot with some classic Chinese New Year essentials and desserts, such as the Lotus Leaf Rice with Eight Treasures and Steamed Mini Bunny Pao (6 pieces).
The glutinous rice was a really unique addition to the festive steamboat, while the adorable Steamed Mini Bunny Pao was stuffed with lotus paste for that indulgent rich touch. I reckon the kids will absolutely love the bunny-shaped buns— they even come with dotted red eyes and folded ears!
If your stomach still has space for more, be sure to try Empire Hotpot’s Chilled Osmanthus Jelly Cake, which is also known as 桂花糕.
With a beautiful crystal-like exterior, this gorgeous jelly cake is packed with actual bits of osmanthus and goji berries, and each slice was wonderfully floral, fruity and light.
At the end of the meal, my dining companions and I were not only stuffed to the brim, but we were also really impressed with Empire Hotpot’s extensive Chinese New Year offerings.
The menu covers everything you could possibly need in a hotpot, let alone one that’s created exclusively to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Plus, the amount of hard work, preparation and handiwork that went into each well-thought-out dish was palpable, and could be clearly felt and tasted through each item’s flavour and texture. Feasting like a royal just got real with Empire Hotpot, especially with its luscious Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup base.
To avoid disappointment during the Lunar New Year, be sure to pre-book in advance!
Expected damage: S$70 – S$150 per pax
* This article was brought to you in partnership with Empire Hotpot.
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
391 Orchard Road, Ngee Ann City, #05-13/14, Singapore 238872
391 Orchard Road, Ngee Ann City, #05-13/14, Singapore 238872