Monday, September 04, 2006

Paper Hotpot

After 11 years of not seeing my 2 best friends (ok, my only 2 friends in Taiwan), they took me out to "paper hotpot." A hotpot can be any variety of things where a liquid is heated in a pot and you dip things into it. It may include shabu shabu, sukiyaki, and I even include fondu, because you're still doing the dipping motion. Clockwise from black spoon on the right: the black spoon is flat and wide, used to manipulate the bits of food inside of the pot so that nothing is over- or undercooked; chopsticks in a paper sleeve; bowl of rice; special sauce that is typically spicy and salty, usually made of some sort of shrimp or brine; the paper hot pot with vegetables, corn, fish balls, taro root, and tofu.

The restaurant not only specializes in using paper as a pot, but using flower teas as the broth for the hotpot. What you can't see is a teabag of flowers somewhere buried under all the food in the pot. The paper pot can last up to 6 hours as long as the liquid level does not go under the first metal ring of the holder, and as long as the flame is burning. The water inside keeps the paper from burning, and the fire keeps the paper from becoming soggy and breaking. This particular ensemble was mine, called the "body trimming" package. It included shrimp, thinly sliced chicken, and some other stuff that you could put in your boiling flower tea.
This ensemble was my childhood bestfriend's. I think it was the "beautifying" package, with a special blend of flowers in the tea that apparently "beautified."
This ensemble is my nextdoor neighbor's. I think it was "body fortifying", because she had been feeling a bit out of sorts.
I still can't believe it was paper that was cooking on top of an open flame.
The body fortifying package included little baby squids. So adorable to look at, a little creepy to eat.
Mine was normal. Thinly sliced chicken, taro root, a bit of a gourd, shrimp, and part of a daikon.
This stuff was already in the hotpot when they brought them out. Green leafy vegetables, fish balls, quail eggs, taro root, daikon, carrot, corn, and broccoli rounded out the stew.
For dessert, despite having eaten a pot full of food each, we had small pieces of cheesecake and iced jasmine milk tea.

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