Malatang (simplified Chinese: 麻辣烫; traditional Chinese: 麻辣燙; pinyin: málàtàng) is a common type of Chinese street food, especially popular in Beijing. It originated in Sichuan, but it differs mainly from the Sichuanese version in that the Sichuanese version is more similar to what in northern China would be described as hot pot.
Typically a table with a big and flat saucepan is set up on the street, with a large number of ingredients in skewers being cooked in a mildly spicy broth. Customers sit around the table picking up whatever they want to eat. Given the large number of ingredients available, normally not all ingredients are in the saucepan at the same time, and customers may suggest what is missing and should be added.
All skewers normally cost the same. Currently in Beijing (as of June 2012) they cost one RMB each. Customers keep the used wooden sticks by their plates, and when a customer finishes eating, the price to pay is determined by counting the number of empty sticks.
In the mid-2010s malatang shops became popular in North China, especially Beijing. In these shops the ingredients are usually displayed on shelves, and customers pick their desired ingredients into a bowl. Behind the counter the selected ingredients are cooked in a spicy broth, usually at very high temperature for 3–4 minutes. Before serving, malatang is typically further seasoned with lots of garlic, black pepper, Sichuan pepper, chili pepper, sesame paste and crushed peanuts. The price is calculated based on the weight of the self-picked ingredients. In Beijing half a kilogramm usually costs between 15-20 RMB as of November 2015.
Some of the common ingredientes include:
- bean curd
- beef (chunks)
- fish balls
- lotus root
- pork liver
- pork lung
- quail eggs
- sheep bowels