Malatang (simplified Chinese: 麻辣烫; traditional Chinese: 麻辣燙; pinyin: málàtàng), a common type of Chinese street food that is 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. And that is one kind of paying method of Malatang. The other kind of Malatang paying method is sold by weight. This method is not as convenient as sticks. And sometimes customers will complain about the price of each food.
Actually, Malatang (can also be called Spicy Hot Pot) is the predecessor of spicy hot pot. Both of them can be chosen to eat in the restaurant dine room. But different from the spicy hot pot, Malatang is easy to make as long as there is soup base. And nearly everything can be put into the soup and eaten. And Malatang is cheaper and more convenient. You neither need to eat with a big pot in front of you nor stay in the hot pot restaurants. Malatang can be taken away by paying extra money for the package without waiting for a long time. That is the biggest difference between Malatang and hot pot. And Malatang is originated from the Changjiang River near Sichuan. In ancient times, boating was a big industry and many people made a living by towing boats. Working under the damp and foggy weather made boat trackers feel very sick. And when they were hungry, they cooked potherb in a pot and put Sichuan pepper and ginger into the soup to eliminate dampness. After that Malatang was created, then vendors discovered the business opportunities, and finally Malatang was spread away.
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 ingredients include: