Cryska & Me: Taiwan’s Hot Pot Culture

Unfortunately, Cryska could not be contacted for this post…but the show needs to go on!

Awww yisss
Awww yisss

Anyways, this is a pretty important post if you’re learning about Taiwan’s culture…so hit the jump!

Like how people joke about Southern USA’s fried chicken being truly something you ought to try, hot pot could be said to the same degree in Taiwan.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terms of “hot pot”, it is essentially a broth that is kept on a constant boil and diners add “ingredients” to cook themselves. The “cooking” process is usually a quick 5-10 minute “dip” in the hot pot. The ingredients can be left to cook in the pot, but if left inside for too long, the ingredients may lose its optimum tenderness/flavor. In that case, the taste of the ingredients is up to the kind of broth you choose for the hot pot. It can be Szechuan (Hot) or something quirky like “Chinese herbal”. The choices are purely by preference and none of them is regarded as the “best”. However, do note that not all restaurants offer the same selections.

The ingredients, as you can see above in the first picture, contain anything from meat to “fish balls” or even “tofu puffs”. There’s too many to describe, so you can see for yourselves should you find yourselves in a hot pot restaurant. However, please do note, not all restaurants offer the same variety, so you may be disappointed that your favorite ingredient is not available.

Chains be found everywhere
Chains be found everywhere

So what do I mean with the whole “culture” aspect? Well, for starters, I can pretty much guarantee that almost every Taiwanese kid has had the experience of homemade hot pot during their childhood. Thus, the cuisine is pretty indoctrinated into the population.

As for the culture itself, hot pot has spawned off many variations. For starters, I did a post on “Ma La Tang”, which is a spicy-devoted version of the hot pot. Like I had pointed out in that post, the difference lies in that the restaurant staff “cook” the ingredients for you. A more original version of the Ma La Tang is essentially a VERY spicy hot pot that works the same way as a traditional hot pot. However, be warned…you’ll be shitting flames for at least a day if you’re not drinking Yakult or milk after.

On the other hand, there’s a variation called “Chou Chou Guo” which stands for stinky pot. For the American readers that reside in California, you’ve probably already experienced this before. In the US, a famous chain called Boiling Point (personal fav) serves up this kind of hot pot at their locations. All the ingredients come inside the pot and pre-cooked so they’re ready to eat once they hit the table. In Taiwan, there are various chains that are based on the same concept, or rather, Boiling Point is based on the same concept. For a detailed look, please look up Boiling Point USA.

Of course, there’s the traditional “hot pot” where you order a pot, and the server brings you a platter of uncooked ingredients. These restaurants are often found in large chains and the popularity doesn’t decrease, despite hot climates in Taiwan. A popular chain called “Shi Er Guo” offer a wide variety of “pots” that you can choose from, but the ingredients are essentially the same. Of course, you can order extra ingredients, but they always come at exorbitant prices.

In any case, if you’re ever in Taiwan, be sure to try out all of these version (if you can) and just remember to cook the ingredients long enough…or you might get diarrhea. Don’t worry though, everyone has done that mistake a couple of times at least…or at least I did.

-Kryska

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