The pandemic has been devastating for restaurants. But one family business in Kaohsiung has managed to weather the storm and come out stronger. The eatery continues a proud family tradition of stone pot hot pot. At one point, the business had 42 locations nationwide. But after COVID hit, it was down to just one location. Then the next generation took over, and revolutionized the business. Locals say it’s more delicious than ever.
Rolls of pork are placed in circles, then into the middle goes a final ring to create a dry ice effect, like an overflowing volcano.
Garlic and onions are sauteed in sesame oil to caramelize in this stone pot, before a delicious broth is poured inside. All round the pot is a flying-saucer-shaped grilling tray. Butter is smeared on for an extra punch. This dish might ring bells for lots of our Kaohsiung viewers.
I ate this before, in junior high. It’s delicious.
The first time I ate it was probably at university. I know my mom and dad always ate this on dates, years ago.
This much-loved Kaohsiung restaurant has been here 54 years. Their secret family recipe is a traditional stone pot hot pot. When the second generation took over the business, they brought out the flying-saucer-shaped grills, as well as hot pots for two. Then they launched the "all you can eat” model. At the peak of their popularity, they had 42 locations across Taiwan. But consumer habits have changed, and in the last three years the pandemic was a big blow. They got down to just one restaurant left – the family’s own location – struggling to make it work.
We announced that we were going to have to shut down, and my mom wanted to retire. But so many of our customers, folks who are still living three generations under one roof, came and asked if we could stay open. I was quite touched by that. It seemed time to come back home to help out.
Now, third generation owner Chang Chih-kai張智凱 has thoroughly renovated the whole restaurant. The menu has changed, as has the style of dishes on offer. The “all you can eat” option is gone.
In the past we were chasing the “all you can eat” market, but actually that meant we could never upgrade the quality, or bring back the original flavor of the broth. After I came back, the first thing I did was to make a change.
A family favorite has been given a fresh start. The classic hot pot aroma mixes here with buttery grilling in a unique way. For Kaohsiung locals, it’s a nostalgic flavor they don’t want to lose.