I was introduce to Szechuan mala hotpot not in China, but in this wonderful little shop in Taipei. The year was 2002 and it was the start of almost 20 years of going to Fu Ji every time I am back in Taipei.
Before they were known as Hoki, which is Taiwanese dialect pronunciation of their Chinese name, Fu Ji 福记麻辣锅 has been operating in the same location since 1996. Because of its location and the proximity to major TV stations on BaDe Road, you always get to see artistes coming here after recording late in the evening for their supper.
Let’s not be confused, the mala hotpot 麻辣火锅 of Taiwan is very different from Sichuan. Firstly, the spices used. While the roots of the hotpot base are similar, Taiwanese hotpot is milder with sweeter herbs like angelica roots and liquorice. Also they don’t use as much peppercorn so it’s not as numbing. And then the 鸳鸯锅 half-half pot concept is definitely a Taiwanese invention. No self-proclaimed authentic Sichuan hotpot place will say they offer a non-spicy soup base.
However unlike other hotpot shops in Taipei, they do allow for you to pack the leftovers in the pot. They are not shy about you trying to reverse engineer the ingredients in the soup base – there are over 27 spices and ingredients that are used in the soup base, I know because I was in the back kitchen before.
You can see the boring repertoire that we always order every time we come here, so I will not bother describing subsequent visits. They introduce half portions sometime in 2015 so we do not need to try to work ourselves through the huge plates and then take home the leftovers. Hotpots need to be eaten fresh.
What I really love was the duck blood pudding 鸭血 and frozen tofu 冻豆腐 that is provided as part of the cover charge for the hotpot base. You can ask for refills of those two items, which justified for the slightly higher than usual price for the cover. But they are so good that I would ask them to freeze the soup base for me to take back to Singapore, especially the duck blood pudding. Not to be outdone, the salted cabbage 酸菜 soup base is also good when you are overwhelmed by the spices. Especially at the end of the meal, it is perfect with the handmade noodles or instant noodles.
I have been coming to this shop before I was married, before Princess was born, before the owners’ son completed his Taiwan national service, before they become grandparents. Now the son has taken over the operations and renovated the place in 2017 and added “partitions” between tables so that there are more privacy. He also updated the ordering process. What remained was the familiar taste and the friendly owners that would still come out and say hello when we are there. Like what they say, “哥吃的是回忆。”
Date Visited : Dec 2016, Jun 2017