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Hot, Hot Soup on a Cold, Cold Day (TAIPEI Quarterly 2021 Winter Vol.26)

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Post date:2021-12-10


TAIPEI #26 (2021 Winter)

Hot, Hot Soup on a Cold, Cold Day

Author AYCC
Photographer April Chen, Markus Winkler

Taipei, a city located in the subtropical zone, might surprise you with its damp and chilly winter that often makes people feel extremely cold. Though the winter here is relatively short, the unbearable coldness can sometimes send chills jolting from your core to your outer extremities. Thankfully, there is virtually no end to the different kinds of soup available in Taiwan, from hot pot to soup noodles, all of which integrate the knowledge of secret ingredients and/or Chinese medicine handed down from our ancestors which allows people to nourish their bodies and keep warm on a freezing day.

Gather round steaming bowls of▲Gather round steaming bowls of hot pot soup with friends and family this winter to warm both body and soul. (Photo/Markus Winkler)

For this winter, we have selected five top soups and hot pots you can find in Taipei to enjoy the authentic flavors while lifting your spirits during this festive but frigid season. Here we go!

🍲Spicy Hot Pot 麻辣鍋
麻辣鍋 (Copy)
Hot pot is considered one of the national delicacies of Taiwan, with spicy hot pot (also known as Chongqing hot pot or Sichuan hot pot) being the absolute favorite choice of Taiwanese during wintertime.

The common base of a spicy hot pot is soup simmered with green Sichuan pepper, chili pepper, ginger, star anise and fennel. Green Sichuan pepper, which embodies the true spirit of the soup, not only creates a flavor known as mala (麻辣, numb-spiciness), but also removes the fishy smell of some of the meat and adds an extra, irresistible aroma. In addition, Sichuan pepper is considered a "warm Chinese medicine," which wards off the common cold and brings heat back to chilled bones. You can add cabbage and pork slices as in other types of hot pots, but nothing goes better with spicy hot pot than tofu and duck blood.

ADD        45, Sec. 2, Nanjing E. Rd., Zhongshan Dist. 
HOURS   11:30am - 1:30am

ADD        19, Sec. 1, Jinshan S. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist. 
HOURS   5:30pm - 3:00am (Closed on Sundays)

🍲Pork and Pickled Cabbage Hot Pot 酸菜白肉鍋
酸菜白肉鍋-Enhanced-Edited (Copy)

If you think soup turning sour means it has gone bad, think again! As the name suggests, pork and pickled cabbage are indispensable to this hot pot favored by virtually every family in Taiwan. The pickled cabbage goes through the fermentation process in advance, where the lactobacillus bacteria decomposes sugars in the cabbage and creates lactic acid, which in turn stimulates digestion. The process also makes cabbages taste sour, and yet a sweet aftertaste arrives immediately after a few bites.

Meanwhile, pork belly slices are added to create a savory fragrance, making the soup even more appetizing when the sour taste neutralizes the oiliness of the pork. Mushrooms, ginger, and green onions are also common ingredients that elevate the flavor. Many foodies add seafood such as shrimp and crab as well, making this winter feast not only warm, but also fresh and fantastic.

ADD        53, Ln. 240, Guangfu S. Rd., Daan Dist.
HOURS   11:30am - 2:00pm, 5:00pm - 9:00pm (Closed on Mondays)

ADD        45, Sihping St., Zhongshan Dist. 
HOURS   11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm

🍲Mutton Soup/Mutton Hot Pot 羊肉爐
羊肉爐 (Copy)

With its high nutritional value, mutton is rich in protein, fat, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus and other substances craved by the human body. Since ancient times, mutton has been a high-end ingredient that was treasured in the hallowed halls of royalty. It is usually stewed with many Chinese herbs, including angelica, wolfberry, licorice, and stir-fried ginger, which give the soup its signature color of translucent black and a strong but sweet aftertaste that neutralizes the gamey smell of mutton.

After first gaining favor with royalty, the delicacy later became wildly popular among common people, who added in more affordable ingredients such as mushroom and tofu to enjoy it as a hot pot dish. For people who are prone to cold hands and feet in winter, mutton hot pot also helps to increase red blood cells and hemoglobin to stimulate blood circulation, warming your body from within.

ADD        18, Tianxiang Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
HOURS   11:30am - 1:00am

ADD        28, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Daan Dist. 
HOURS   11:00am - 2:00pm, 5:00pm - 1:00am

🍲Ginger Duck Soup 薑母鴨
薑母鴨 (Copy)
Permeating any room with a strong, succulent aroma, ginger duck soup is one of the best "tonic foods" widely enjoyed during the winter in Taipei. With ginger and pungent rice wine being the two essential components of the dish, it is believed that the soup has several medicinal and nutritional values. In the Chinese medical world, ginger has long been used as an herbal medicine to treat various physical ailments, including vomiting and cold symptoms, as it is rich in calcium and vitamin C. Meanwhile, the rice wine helps to purify the soup and warm the body up.

Duck meat, on the other hand, has a higher iron content than beef which aids the formation of red blood cells. Many restaurants in Taipei serve ginger duck on a charcoal or gas fire and add hot pot ingredients to enjoy with the soup. One thing that should be noted is that the 19.5-proof rice wine does not burn off after stewing which means this dish has a kick in more ways than one!

ADD        1-2, Ln. 160, Sec. 3, Minquan E. Rd., Songshan Dist. 
HOURS   4:00pm - 1:00am

ADD        131, Sec. 2, Xinsheng N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist. 
HOURS   4:00pm - 2:00am

🍲Sesame Oil Chicken Soup 麻油雞
IMG_2594-1-Edited (Copy)
Sesame oil chicken soup is not only one of the most iconic chicken soups in Taiwan, but also the most aromatic and delicious braised chicken you will ever find. The main ingredients include chicken, rice wine, ginger, jujube, goji berry, astragalus roots and loads of sesame oil.

Unlike ginger duck soup or mutton soup that are often enjoyed with cabbage or tofu, there are usually no extra hot pot ingredients added in, which condenses the flavor to just the soup itself and the chicken infused with sesame oil.

Sesame oil has several health benefits. It helps to get rid of the body's surplus fat, enhances skin elasticity, and is rich in vitamins B and E. Therefore, sesame oil chicken soup is often served to new moms who consume it as part of a nutritional replenishment meal during their traditional month-long period of after-birth care. While the soup itself already makes for a perfect meal, people also eat it with vermicelli or string noodles (麵線), making it an extra comforting meal that fights off the winter blues.

麻油雞 (Copy)
ADD        34, Ln. 311, Sec. 2, Zhonghua Rd., Zhongzheng Dist. 
HOURS   5:00pm - 0:00am (Closed on Mondays)

ADD        552-2, Linsen N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist. 
HOURS   11:00am - 10:00pm (Closed on Sundays)



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