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Monday, February 09, 2009
hotpot/taiwanese: i recommend TRIPOD KING SPICY HOTPOT
TRIPOD KING SPICY HOTPOT or DING WANG
No. 89, Guangfu N Rd
hours: 11 AM - 2:30AM
Kid friendliness: i think i saw high chairs. not for picky eaters. only spicy hotpot or pickled cabbage soup hotpot
Visit reviewed: 1/6/2009
If you haven't heard about "mala huo guo" or spicy hotpot, then you've been missing out on the perfect meal for a cold and rainy day in Taipei. "Mala" hotpot is a spin on the regular hotpot, but offers a ultra-spicy deep red blood colored broth to cook your meats and vegetables in.
Tripod King or Ding Wang is one of the more famous joints in town- my girlfriends were raving for weeks that we had to try it and said that every time they attempted to call to make a reservation the line was busy. Sometimes it is easier to just go there ahead of time and get a reservation in person.
I'm assuming that the name Tripod King comes from the shape of the hotpot- a huge metal bowl with three short feet.
There's a set up fee just for the all you can drink broth- NT$98 per person- and then you pay for whatever additional plates of sliced meats, fresh fishballs or vegetables you want (NT$90-290+). If you want to have a half spicy and half not spicy like we did, it's an additional flat fee of NT$150. It ended up being about NT$500 a person for our group of girlfriends- it would probably end up more for a bunch of guys.
The menu is in English and Chinese with a picture for almost everything. I did giggle at a few typos and the way they attempted to describe the more unusual parts of animals. Would you like some "rice nuddles," "selected rectum" or "selected honey cumb?"
But one thing that is pretty smart is that they have "assortment" plates for each type of thing they offer- for example, they offer 5 types of handmade dumplings, if you can't decide, you can get the sampler plate that has 2 of each. They also have sampler meatballs, sampler mushrooms, sampler
I also almost giggled after the waitresses bow after each time they come to your table. The first time was novel, but after each time (a glass of water, a refill of the soup, a new plate of vegetables) it kind of was a time waster when you were trying to flag down the waitress from another table.
After you first sit down and order, they bring the hotpot to the table and all the dishes. The "mala" side already has large chunks of tofu and duck's blood (it looks kind of like chocolate tofu, as my friend's sister used to call it when she was a kid). The non-mala side has pickled cabbage and pork that gives the broth a slightly sour flavor. You can then go to the back of the room and get your own sauces and rice.
Supposedly you're supposed to use the creamier sauce for the mala and the soy sauce for the pickled cabbage, but I used them both.
And then once you get cooking, you've got a bowl full of food. There's huge ladles for everyone to use- if you're a first time hotpotter, try to keep your personal chopsticks out of the hotpot as well as remember to use a different pair of chopsticks to cook the raw meat.
Other favorites you should make sure to order are the "youtiao" or fried breadstick that will soak up the broth with a crunch, kind of like dipping your garlic bread in soup at an Italian restaurant. Also they have freshly made fishballs that they will spoon in for you.
I wasn't so crazy about the Szechewan mini-meatballs, but mostly everything was good. The mala is too spicy for me to drink, but I enjoyed digging out some duck's blood and tofu and eating it with the rice. But I'd cook my meats and other things in the preserved cabbage side.
This trip to Tripod King was actually after going to another Ding Wang that I liked better. Tripod King's name in Chinese is Ding Wang2 (Wang meaning King, so 2nd tone), and the less famous but equally good Ding Wang4 is the 4th tone. The other Ding Wang4's non-mala broth was not a pickled cabbage broth but their own hotpot broth, and they also offered lunchtime NT$100 noodles that were so delicious (and to be reviewed!)
My friend said that once they had a reservation for 10 or 12 people and they were all squished at a table for 10... which is all fine, except that they all had to share just ONE hotpot. If you can't wait to eat, you might be better off at the all you can eat Momo Paradise which has a hotpot for every 2-4 people.
But if you can get a seat, you shouldn't turn it down. And if you can, go with a bunch of friends or family so you can enjoy chatting while you sharing good food, and can try more things when you order for more people so you don't have a huge bill for just yourself.