An intense smell evoking a dark, musty Chinese apothecary hits patrons immediately upon entering Full Green, an organic hot pot restaurant that serves medicinal herbs as well as meat and seafood.
But inside, the dining room is well-lit and filled with blonde wood furnishings and the pleasant, mild din of chatter from diners. Full Green serves organic medicinal plants grown in the Yuan Sen Applied Botanical Garden in Taitung (台東原生應用植物園). The restaurant promotes the Slow Food culture and an ecologically sound lifestyle through its signature hot pot of herbs, each possessing specific medicinal properties.
On my first visit I ordered the surf and turf set meal hot pot (海陸鍋, NT$550), which includes a choice of meat — I chose beef — and a seafood platter.
The large bowl of raw medicinal herbs was served first. It included centella asiatica (雷公根) a mildly anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-viral leaf that herbalists believe promotes youthfulness, angelica keiskei (明日葉) a plant that contains a powerful antioxidant, and cinnamomum osmophloeum (土肉桂), a medicinal herb native to Taiwan. The leaves were each a different shade of emerald and I felt healthier just looking at them.
The placemat advises diners to first cook the medicinal herbs and then drink the soup to absorb as much of the nutrients as possible before moving on to cooking the meat and seafood.
There are photos of each herb and a detailed description of their tastes and nutritional values. However, the pictures are thumb-sized and it is difficult to match an herb with its corresponding description.
A fern-like leaf that vaguely resembled the blurry photo of Japanese prickly-ash (紅刺葱) tasted like a quality shiitake mushroom, but was slippery and slightly chewy.
Address: 10, Alley 11, Ln 216 Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段216巷11弄10號)
Telephone: (02) 2721-6856 Open: Daily from 11am to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$400 On the Net: www.fullgreen.com.tw
The herbs on their own do not make for the most exciting gastronomic experience. So on my next visit I decided to ignore the restaurant’s instructions. I first cooked all the other ingredients to flavor the soup, and popped in the herbs last.
The squash and mushrooms that come with the set meal went into the pot first, as they take longer to cook. The frozen beef slices went next, cooked in seconds and paired well with the salty-sweet toon dipping sauce.
The it was the seafood platter, which includes a small basket of baby oysters, two prawns, and a handful of scallops and fish slices, all fresh and plump.
Finally the herbs. The taste of the different herbs — sometimes bitter, sometimes tart, sometimes woodsy — foiled the soup, which had absorbed the flavors of meat, seafood and vegetables. With a dash of dipping sauce and a drop of chili oil, the medicinal herbs made a veritable feast.