In winter, our lips become completely numb after countless attempts to warm ourselves up from the inside out by dipping our chopsticks into Sichuan-style hotpots around town. By the time February rolls around, we’re usually longing for feeling in both our mouths and extremities to return, so we decided to sample the decidedly less mala hotpot specialties of other regions for a winter pick-me-up.
Kuo Bee Pen Da
What: Taiwanese Curry Hotpot
Where: 301 Huashan Lu, near Changshu Lu. Tel: 6249 8877
Why: You like your hotpot saucy
The sign outside Kuo Bee Pen Da reads Fusion Hotpot, a phrase that has too often come to be synonymous with soulless food in Shanghai. Mingling cruise ship décor with the colour scheme of the finest ‘80s lounges, Kuo Bee Pen Da’s interior design is muddled at best. Even the menu seems culturally confused, with French cuisine’s wild mushroom consommé vying for space with the Thai tom yum goong soup, but stick to what the Taiwanese do well, and you’ll have the best seat in town.
The yellow curry broth is recommended by the menu and the hotpot chain’s loyal fans. With a handful of medicinal herbs, the curry is simmered for hours to unleash the most fragrant hotpot broth in town. While it is reason enough to drop by, the fun doesn’t end with the curry.
A table chock full with bases, seasonings and herbs gives you free reign over your dipping sauce. Feel like XO Sauce with Korean Sprite, a dash of vinegar and a pinch of fried garlic? To each their own at Kuo Bee Pen Da. There’s more than 25 ingredients to choose from, but a mixture of peanut butter and sesame sauce is a hotpot staple. Don’t forget to thin it with vinegar and soy sauce.
When it comes down to the raw ingredients, Kuo Bee Pen Da’s expansive picture menu has busted out some of the finer vegetables from the food pyramid. Ever had broccoli and water chestnuts soaked in yellow curry? If the answer is no, stop what you’re doing and head to Kuo Bee Pen Da right now. Don’t forget to order the frozen beancurd; the restaurant staple has the soaking capabilities of the most industrious sponge for a curry-filled bite.
This article was originally written by Jamie as a review series for the February 2011 edition of Shanghai TALK.