Just a few days back I felt like having a hot pot. It is one of those things that happen after we travel quite a bit, we start thinking of options and alternatives that otherwise may have never occurred to us. So, I have been muddling around about how to make a hot pot at home in India. All the hot pots I have had so far have been in Taiwan.
Earlier I wrote a fairly detailed post about vegetarian and vegan foods in Taiwan. Adding to it, here are the hot pots that I tried out on this lovely island country. Usually the vegetarian food in Taiwan is vegan & without onion and garlic. So mostly, these vegetarian hot pots I have shared below are vegan and Jain-friendly. But it is possible that some side dishes may have dairy.
Two of my hot pot experiences were in Taipei and I hadn’t particularly gone looking for a hot pot. I, as usual, went looking for a vegetarian restaurant and found the vegetarian hot pot goodness! 🙂
5 Course Hot Pot at Easy House
I think I was searching for another vegetarian restaurant that showed up on the map near about here and then came across this one. It has a quiet, fine dining ambience. The hot pot here is a prepared dish, I mean that I didn’t get an actual cooking fire with a simmering soup pot on it.
I chose a hot pot “set” which means I get a 5 course meal. 😉
Starting with a smoothie drink and hot chai. Followed by a soup which was really delicious. I may go so far to say it is one of the best soups I have had. It was not super filling as you can see. But the flavours were so subtle, I loved it. It had some fruit in it (orange?) and some kind of seeds that you can see. Very lovely.
After that was the main hot pot dish, which was a delight to have and it was also very flavourful. This was my first experience with a hot pot style dish. I really enjoyed digging around in the pot and trying out single pieces of vegetable or mushroom with the subtle taste of the gravy.
The only problem with this dish was that it was not filling enough. Apart from the vegetables in the hot pot there was only mushroom pieces. No noodles or rice to actually make it a filling meal for me. On the positive side, I spent quite a bit of time going through these courses because they are so subtly flavourful that one gets into the mind set of really enjoying the meal slowly.
The final course was a fruit plate again pleasantly presented and enjoyable. And a delicious coconut sweet. The thickness of the sweet was a cross between a watery soup and puree. The flavours were again subtle but very enjoyable. And in general, I think for a lot of us, coconut is a classic favourite dessert.
What would be really cool, is if these dishes were *ahem* unlimited like we get in an Indian thali or at a buffet.
The price was about 500 NTD – ok for the overall ambience and food quality. But to feel slightly hungry after it is kind of a bummer. 😀
There is a good, detailed review of this restaurant here if you are interested.
A “Proper” Hot Pot @ Like Lotus
I was heading to another vegetarian restaurant in the area and found that there was a long line for it. Or may be I was just confused how to get to that restaurant. It was in a mall on a higher floor and to get inside the mall there seemed to be a long line (don’t know what that was about)…. so I skipped it all together and found this other one on the map. It was confusing because the name was in Mandarin. So I had no way to check if it was vegetarian. The lady at the counter didn’t speak any English at all. She called a waitress to talk to me, but even she spoke only a little bit of English. So I wasn’t sure it was indeed vegetarian. But since I saw it was a hot pot I decided to have one with only the vegetables. In hindsight, the lack of any obvious meat in the restaurant should have been a clear sign that it is indeed vegetarian – but as vegetarians we have to remain always vigilant.
This is a common style of soup pot for hot pots which allows us to experiment with two different varieties of soup as per my research online. And in general hot pots are had with friends or family, so I wondered whether my being there alone was a bit of a cultural faux pas. 😀 But I am quite used to this particular faux pas, where I am solo in the most community-centric kind of place, so I didn’t bother much about it.
The problem, however, was not being able to exactly understand what I was supposed to do. Anyway, I watched the other guests in the restaurant and commenced. I chose two soups from the menu and they happened to be black and white as shown in the picture 🙂 Yin and Yang style. It was interesting… the black one tasted like some kind of herbal medicine. The transparent one was super subtle. I think one of them had ginseng in them so I was feeling quite good about it. 🙂
I put the 2-soup-pot on fire and started heating it. And then headed to the counter for the ingredients.
There were so many choices. Yummmm…. lots of types of vegetables – chopped, leafy and chunky. A lot of mushrooms of all size and shapes. The there were lot of different noodles – I would have loved to take some but I couldn’t make out if they were vegetarian. A lot of noodles have egg in them and I just wasn’t sure of them.
And then there was a table with loads of small jars with an amazing choice of sauces. Wow, I totally loved this!
I took a couple of them and found them to be really interesting. And very strong flavours in some of them. But what I couldn’t fathom is whether I had to put them inside the soup pot or have it separately at side like the Indian chutney.
Anyway, I did both. 😀
And I took lots of chunky vegetables and mushrooms to make do for not having any noodles.
Because this was my first time, a lot of thought went into what I was supposed to do! But next time I think I will be able to enjoy a lot more. And I would ideally ensure it is a vegetarian place so I can be free with whatever ingredients I want to choose 🙂
Overall, I enjoyed myself. The nearby people did stare at me a little bit but I was quite happy with the experience. I also peeped back at them to ensure that I was not doing something totally unusual. 😀
Again, not super filling, because I didn’t use any noodles (otherwise it would be perfect), but very enjoyable. And I must say hot pot was fast becoming one of my most favourite dishes (and food experience).
Finally, the last course was dessert. And there I was totally flummoxed because if I am not sure it is vegetarian then most desserts are out for me (as they probably have egg etc..). But I found an interesting natural ice-cream and so I had that. Ice-creams are usually OK for veggies 😉
Finally there was a funny (and costly) incident. When it was time to pay for this meal (about NTD 500) I used my forex card. But the lady was tech challenged and also couldn’t speak a word of English. So she charged me but couldn’t understand what the machine was saying. And I also didn’t get an SMS of the payment. So finally, I had to go to an ATM to withdraw the cash. And paid her in cash. Later I realised that I was actually charged for that card transaction too. So I ended up paying here NTD 1000 !! :O
Oh well, all for a good hot pot I guess 😀
Finally, a filling Vegetarian Hot Pot
And my third experience with a hot pot was finally filling! Woohoo!
Basically, the key to a filling vegetarian hot pot is rice or noodles (and maybe tofu?). This was a hot pot I got during the Formosa900 event. [I was sponsored by the Taiwan tourism bureau for this Formosa900 cycling event (all views are my own)] So as a hungry cyclist, glad I got some rice to satiate the gnawing tummy! The ingredients in this hot pot was chosen already by the restaurant folks but it was all good. And there was so much stuff in the soup! Usually if I make my hot pot I will be sure to put only as much as necessary and then empty it. But maybe, traditionally the idea is to fill it up and have more than what a person can finish….
It was enjoyable. And filling. 🙂
And so that’s my tryst with the hot pot so far.
Now the question is, can I make this at home? Will update over here if I do experiment with it.
What are your thoughts about a hot pot? Ever had one or made one at home?