Saturday, September 8, 2018

Spicy Hotpot

While I thought it’s strange to spend time at a hot spring resort in the middle of summer, I have no problem eating at a hotpot restaurant in August – yes, talk about double standard. And this time in Taipei, we decided to visit one of the more popular hotpot restaurant chains for dinner.

Tripod King Spicy Hotpot (鼎王麻辣鍋) began its life in Taichung and now have branches across Taiwan, including two in Taipei. The one we went was at Chang-an District, and it was just a few bus stops away from where we stayed. We made the reservation online in advance so that saved us from having to wait for our table - turned out it's a great decision as there were quite a line when we arrived. There’s nothing particularly glamorous about spicy hotpot, but the restaurant does feature fancy décor with dark wood furniture and recessed lighting, with waitstaff well-dressed in traditional silk cheongsam uniform. The dining room was spacious with huge tables too – it’s the type of venue even suited for a romantic dinner, I reckon, if having a mouthful of Sichuan hot pepper smell doesn’t deter any potential date of yours.

There’s a wide menu of hotpot items from meats to seafood, but first, we needed to pick a soup base – either the spicy mala flavor, or the non-spicy pickled cabbage. Or pick the combo if one can’t choose, just like us. Fearing the soup might be too spicy for our standard, we asked them to tone it down slightly, but then turned out it became too timid with not much of the Sichuan pepper flavor that I expected. While the soup base might not be the favorite part of our meal, what accompanied the soup were. For the spicy mala soup, it came with hard tofu and duck blood curd – I swear those were some of the best duck blood curd I have tried, with good texture and infused with the flavor from the soup. And the best part? Unlimited refill!

We were probably happy enough just munching on the tofu and duck blood curd in the soup, we did order more food for the hotpot. The plate of USDA beef short ribs was said to be suitable for 3 persons or above, but of course, at the end we had absolutely no problem wiping them clean between the two of us. The meat was sliced thin and have good marbled fat. I also love the honeycomb tripes with a good bite, working well in either soup base. The assorted meatball platter came with four different kinds of meatballs. They were alright but nothing to write home about – in retrospect we should have ordered the mashed crab and shrimp paste which was their signature item instead. And the crunchy youtiao – deep-fried Chinese bread sticks – was perfect to soak up the spicy soup.

The restaurant was known for its friendly service. Additional sauces were available in the counter which was blended specifically for the particular soup base, and the staff was always nearby to refill your hotpot with more soup and condiments, and always finished with a deep bow. We were very impressed. We also enjoyed the house-made drinks of chrysanthemum tea and plum juice served on pitchers – those were perfect summer drink and well-suited for hotpot meal.

We were more than satisfied after the meal - to the extent we had to cancel our after-dinner drink plan because we could no longer eat or drink anything after the feast. At the end they offered to bag any leftover soup for us to finish at home – I would definitely take that up if we stayed in a place with a pantry. I could have more of those duck blood curd any time of the day. There were similar places in Hong Kong but nothing close to the standard here in Taiwan. 

When? August 7 2018
Where? Tripod King, No. 131-1, Section 2, Chang'an East Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
鼎王麻辣鍋(台北長安店): 台北市中山區長安東路二段131-1號
Menu Highlights? Tripod King Hotpot with Spicy Soup, Tofu and Duck Blood Curd

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