Those celebrating Christmas may have turkey and ham in mind this weekend, but let’s not forget it’s also the season for shabu shabu, the Japanese version of hot pot.
Hefeng Huiguan (和風會館), which opened last month, offers an atmosphere well-suited for taking your time and enjoying a big meal.
Diners can choose from a long list of raw meats and seafood to cook in their own individual hot pots. All items on Hefeng’s menu have long fancy names, including basic platters like the “top select” chicken slices (精選雞肉片鍋, NT$230), “top select plum blossom” pork slices (精選梅花豬肉片, NT$230) and the “special grade” beef slices (特選牛肉片, NT$260).
“Shabu shabu” is named after the Japanese word for “swish” (刷), and refers to the sound of diners swirling raw meat in hot broth with their chopsticks.
The tasty “snowflake” prime beef (雪花霜降牛肉, NT$380), presumably named for its intricate marbled lines, is tasty enough to keep you busy swishing away. The beef comes thinly sliced, like most other meat selections, so it cooks quickly.
Seafood and meat combos are NT$330, and one of my dining companions said she enjoyed the fresh shrimp, clams and lamb platter (鮮蝦蛤蜊鍋加羊). Other combinations include clams and squid or shrimp and clams, with a choice of either chicken, pork, beef or lamb.
All sets come with large portions of raw side dishes including cabbage and mustard greens, squash, taro and several varieties of tofu and mushrooms. Most of these ingredients can’t be “swished” but still cook fairly fast. Leave the taro and squash pieces in the pot throughout most of the meal for a richer broth.
Like any shabu shabu joint worth its salt, Hefeng puts particular effort into its dipping sauce, a combination of soy sauce, chopped onions and bonito flakes, along with kumquat for a touch of sweet citrus. This sauce reminded me of why I go out for hot pot instead of having it at home.
Address: 133, Heping E Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市和平東路二段133號)
Telephone: (02) 2704-5670?Hours: 11:30am to 11pm ?Average Meal: NT$300 to NT$500
Details: Chinese menu only
If a constantly bubbling pot of broth loaded with meat and vegetables isn’t enough to warm you up, there are always Hefeng’s specialties: hot pot loaded with either kimchi or spicy Sichuan-style broth. The surf-and-turf hot pots (韓國泡菜海陸鍋/四川麻辣海陸鍋) are NT$500 and the seafood pots (韓國泡菜海鮮鍋/四川麻辣海鮮鍋) are NT$460.
Not feeling brave enough for a spicy broth, I ordered the shop’s homemade kimchi (韓國泡菜) on the side for NT$70. It was a great match with the prime beef slices, producing morsels that were chilled and warm, sweet and sour, and spicy and savory.
Hefeng offers a simple but comfortable dining space — it’s a long room with a bar that seats 18 persons and tables that seat up to six. The decor was obviously done on a budget, but it’s tasteful enough with earth-toned panels, an elevated plywood floor and a wall of fake stone bricks. The flat-screen TVs are unobtrusive as the proprietors are mindful enough to have the sound muted.
At a brief glance, Hefeng almost looks like an art gallery with intricate tiles lining the shop front, but the steamed windows and glass door give away its identity as a hot pot restaurant.
All meals come with a simple dessert of sweet red beans, and a choice of coffee (there’s an espresso machine) or tea. Sake is NT$130, Kirin is NT$80 and Taiwan Beer is NT$60.