My first time to a “Blogger’s Food Tasting Event” on behalf of Mary’s Happy Belly was so awesome!   I really didn’t know what to expect at a Food Tasting event, so I just packed up my DSLR and headed to Warden/Steeles.  With an empty stomach, I wondered what HOPO was – the more I thought about HOPO, the more it sounded like hot pot, the more hungry I got.  So as I was driving there, I imagined a huge layout of fresh ingredients aisle to select from just like any other hot pot in the area. I was running some Archery Tag at Archers Arena beforehand, so some hot pot would be super duper nice!  Here’s my recap of the event:

When I arrived, I found that HOPO was tucked in to the right side of Chatime.   Walking through the doors, I was warmly greeted by the staff and was given a name tag!  It’s a really nice decent size place, modern design, and to my surprise – no fresh ingredients aisle of endless food. I’m really curious about HOPO now, maybe it’s just a regular restaurant after all. Looked around, and recognized some prominent names in the Food Blogging Community like Hubert L (@goodfoodtoronto).  Took my seat across from Christine (@tastebytes) and waited for others to arrive.  I met Alex (@hypebelly) and we chatted for a bit until Jon & Christina (@CJNoms) arrived as well a several others.

Appetizers started to come out after a brief intro/welcome, and of course, my first basic instinct was to look for better lighting to take photos.  We opened up the window shades to allow bright natural light in and the frenzie photoshoot was on!

Popcorn Chicken Korean Style

An array of four different appetizers came out and the first seen here is the RED – Korean Style Popcorn Chicken tossed in HOPO’s sweet & spicy house sauce.

Japanese Style Popcorn Chicken

This is a Japanese Style Popcorn Chicken dressed with Okonomiyaki sauce and bonito flakes – quite yummy!

Taiwanese Style Popcorn Chicken

The third of the Popcorn Chicken Trio-o-dishes is Taiwanese Inspired – simple bite size pieces with house special sweet sour dip.

Stinky Tofu Stuffed with Kim Chi

The fourth appetizer comes with a very distinctive smell – yup it’s Taiwanese Stinky Tofu stuffed with Kim Chi! If you love the smell, this appetizer is highly recommended by HOPO’s owner Owen.

Must have everything it one bowl! Popcorn chicken was done quite well, juicy and tender.  A great start.

After our appetizers were done, I got myself a Honey Pomelo Soda. Refreshing with bits of orange shavings at the bottom.

I was enjoying my drink when I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned around to see this!

HOPO ~ Fusion Style Hotpot

The flavour of this HOPO #ONEPOT is Malaysian Laksa, and it comes packed with all the ingredients already.  Ingredients included: Shrimps, Pork Balls, Chicken Stick, Puff Tofu, Yuba, Enoki Mushroom, Mini Sausages, several hot pot staples and two elusive Quail Eggs!  That explains why there wasn’t an ingredients aisle.  Props to the owners for prepping the Quail Eggs before putting them into the soup though, they were amazing!  I tried to get the quail egg recipe from the owner Owen, but his lips were sealed.

The pot is self contained with flammable pellets used to heat up the pot as I eat.  Once the pellets all burned out, a server refuels with a new batch to keep the heat going.  If too hot or over-boiling, you can request for the flame to be extinguished. A neat idea that the owners of HOPO brought to Toronto while traveling Asia – they wanted to bring other Asian inspired flavours to HOPO.  Having the #ONEPOT removes the chaos of the ingredients aisle as well as needless wastes and perishables.  Convenient #ONEPOT allow no cross contamination of other soups AND I get it all to myself!

Since I’m a little bit of a control freak – the one thing I did not like was that I was not able to control the flames as the food cooks.  While all the ingredients were being overcooked to death, I had to be careful not to touch the pot itself else I was warned I might get burnt.   Other than that,the soup was great, flavours were amazing and spiciness level was on point!  I had the choice of pairing my soup with egg noodles or rice.  For the Laksa flavour, rice was the better choice for me.  But if you are a noodle person, then noodles is your best friend.

I was curious as to what the next table got and took a quick snap of their #ONEPOT: Spicy Beef Soup

Spicy Beef Soup

I was getting full, but deserts were next and boy, they do not disappoint! All of which are made in house by Chef/Owner Jun.  I got to sample the Tofu Cheesecake & the Matcha Green Tea Milk Pudding.  Delicious.  Tofu Cheesecake hands down.

Tofu Cheese Cake

And with that, all the food disappeared in to my happy belly.  I had to say a huge thank you to HOPO for having me as well as the staff for an amazing job.  On behalf of Mary’s Happy Belly (@themary_tang) I would like to thank the owners Owen & Jun for the invite.  Another thank you to Dolly (@dollyshao) for organizing the event!  Until next time, stay hungry friends.

– Bao @wowbaobao