Ning Chi Spicy Tripe Hot Pot, Taipei
I guess it's difficult to avoid hot pot in Taiwan, eh? Well, I was told that this was perhaps one of the first places in Taipei to start serving this stuff (9 GuangFu South Road Lane 200, 2772-1912). It in fact has developed such a reputation that it spurned a bunch of knock-offs of the same name. We came down to the original, and it was definitely old school: when we got there, the proprietor was sleeping on a makeshift bed using a bunch of chairs placed side by side. It was worth a chuckle, I suppose.
Yeah, this grimey place was basically the complete antithesis of upscale Ding Wang. They featured a giant bucket of sa cha sauce if you wanted it, and the preparation techniques were very crude: the meat was sliced so thickly (and it was of such low quality) that biting into it was like trying to eat a Persian rug. But the broth worked for me. It had such a pleasantly natural hint of sweetness that I had to reach for a few extra scoops.
Actually, one of my colleagues pointed out to me that the thing to eat here was the namesake tripe. And he was right: it was so tender that I didn't even bother with the meat anymore. Perhaps more interesting was the sliced aorta (yes, that's right - the giant artery), which turned out to be tasteless, but texture-wise was a bit like eating cuttlefish. Gross? Perhaps. But it was good to come here just to check it out, even if I really don't plan to come back.