Spice up your life with a Chongqing hotpot

Spice up your life with a Chongqing hotpot

Hotpots are to Chongqing what Beijing duck is to the Chinese capital. In fact, for residents of southwest China’s largest metropolis, this spice-laden dish is more than a cornerstone of local cuisine – it’s a way of life. According to the Chongqing Hotpot Association, more than 50,000 hotpot eateries supply Chongqingers with their regular spicy fix.


Chongqing native Vivian Wang hangs her head over a bowl of bubbling, chili-topped soup, and inhales deeply.

“This is the smell I miss the most when I travel overseas,” she says. “When I don’t get my daily huoguo (hotpot), my stomach feels lost.”

Distinguishing Chongqing huoguo from other Chinese hotpots is its mala (numbingly spicy) broth, made from oil, dried chili, Sichuan pepper, and local herbs. Diners cook assorted vegetables and meats in the boiling broth, before dipping them into a bowl of sesame oil, shallots, and garlic.

For Chongqing visitors with an aversion to spice, the Mandarin phrase bu tai la (not too spicy) is well worth memorising.

Hotpot hotspots

Chongqing Cygnet Hotpot Palace
6F, Yingli International Financial Mansion, 40
Minquan Road, Yuzhong District

Radisson Blu Plaza River Café
22 Nanbin Road,
Nan’an District

Hai Yi Xuan
9F, Harbour Plaza, Wuyi Road, Yuzhong District

Text and photos Daniel Allen