Even in a place where the average day time high is around 71º Fahrenheit, hot pot maintains it’s cultural popularity in Taiwan. Whether enjoying hot pot with family, friends, or as a couple, I’m always amazed at just at how many people there are eating hot pot—even late at night.
After flying into Taiwan, we headed straight to dinner in Taichung at a sister restaurant of Karuizawa (輕井澤 / qing jing ze), Seventeen Stones Hot Pot (拾七石頭火鍋 / shi qi shi tou huo guo). Seventeen Stones Hot Pot feels fairly similar to Karuizawa with, perhaps, more emphasis on Japanese decor.
Right when you enter, you feel like you’ve been transported to Japan with the huge bales of straw (標縄 / shimenawa) protecting the entrance.
The gentle lighting lets you know that you’re in for a classy meal.
Inside, one of the first things I noticed was the small market that they had by hosting area. There were a bunch of vegetables for sale, presumably ones that you could enjoy as a part of your hot pot experience. Though it was kind of weird having a miniature farmer’s market up front and seeing the Japanese written next to the Chinese characters, it was also cool to see what many of the produce looked like before being prepared.
The interior of the restaurant is super sleek with wood panels everywhere. The wood seems to create a sanctuary for every diner, making it feel as though you’re the only ones that matter.
Each table comes with a fire stove for each individual person. The table that we were at easily could seat and feed a family of four. The stoves are slightly raise and just close enough for easy access (without being super dangerous to diners).
This napkin box displayed various stats about the fire and cooking. Speaking about napkin box, this type of napkin (餐巾紙 / can jin zhi) is pretty common in Taiwan. Whereas diners will often get large white paper napkins in the United States, napkins in Taiwan are much smaller (around 4×4 inches). These napkins are more like tissue in thickness and feel.
After ordering our food, we went to make our sauces at a DIY sauce bar. The bar had a variety of chilled sauces, oils, daikon, ginger, garlic, and onions for mixing.
I went with a standard ponzu sauce with daikon.
Within minutes of ordering, our hot pots arrived. Soon after, the vegetables (and seafood) came out beautifully arranged. By the time we got all of our sauces in order, our meats were just arriving.
Quickly, I threw a lot of the vegetables in that I knew would take longer to cook, including the Japanese pumpkin (南瓜 / kabocha) and taro (芋頭 / yu tou). The crab and kamaboko were fun to add into the mix.
One of the more interesting items to throw into the hot pot was the lettuce. Lettuce has always been something that should be eaten fresh, but many places in Taiwan will cook lettuce, especially a type of lettuce known as A菜 (A cai).
If you happen to stop by Seventeen Stones Hot Pot, the slightly gray ball with black specks is a treat. Enjoy it at the very end of your meal for a pleasant surprise.
From beginning to end, I enjoyed every part of the meal. At one point, it’s telling when you lose a vegetable or piece of meat that you put in your hot pot because the conversation and company is just that good. Perhaps this is what is most compelling about hot pot in Taiwan—the ability to just hang out with friends and loved ones over a piping hot meal that can be customized to your liking.
Can’t wait to have more of this again!