What is Malatang, or Spicy Hot Pot?

by Krystina Quintana

There is a large crossover between cuisine in Asia, with many recipes originating in one country and being adopted by other countries. One such food is Sichuan hot pot, originally from China; this spicy hot pot is now common in Korean cuisine. 

This Chinese spicy hot pot is typically served as street food and includes a numbing, spicy broth. You'll find an array of items cooked in this broth, from meat to veggies. Below, you'll learn more about malatang and what makes this Chinese soup so addictive that it's now a staple in Korea. 

What Is Malatang Soup?

Malatang hot pot and a side of rice.

Originating in Sichuan, China, malatang is a quick version of a spicy hot pot. This soup has ingredients like chilis, peppercorns, garlic, and other various seasonings that provide a tongue-numbing effect. Mala, meaning "numb" and "spicy," and tang, translating to "boiling hot", perfectly describes the dish. 

This spicy mala tang hot pot originated on a section of the Yangtze River, where the locals' primary source of income was towing boats upstream. Needing a nutritious and filling meal, the locals would toss anything they could find into a pot to help them refuel. Eventually, they added other seasonings, like chilis, into the pot. 

It is thought that this spicy hot pot helped keep the boat towers in peak health, allowing them to combat damp weather (according to Chinese medicine). 

Is Malatang the Same as Hot Pot?

Malatang is a type of hot pot. However, there are some major differences between traditional hot pot and malatang. For example, hot pot is served at a table to be shared by a group of people, whereas Sichuan hot pot is street food. Spicy hot pot is also served in a communal pot. Regular hot pot is only shared by people sitting at the same table. 

What Does Malatang Taste Like?

It features a complex set of flavors that are spicy and nutty. However, the flavor will depend on the variety of malatang you select. It typically has a reddish broth due to the spicy chilies.   

How to Make Malatang? 

Malatang (Chinese food) includes various ingredients, from broth to veggies and meat. The first step in learning how to make malatang is deciding what ingredients you want to add. Here are a few typical items in yin tang spicy hot pot. 

Common Ingredients

The broth typically begins with beef fat; then, you'll see chilis, Sichuan peppers, garlic, salt, and ginger as the hot pot base. You can also make the broth vegetarian using a mushroom hot pot base or a plain hot pot broth. It’s also essential to select your noodles for hot pot, along with veggies like lotus root, mushrooms, and green veggies. The final ingredient to consider is the protein you’d like in your soup, such as tofu, fish balls, beef, etc.

Malatang Recipe

Using the above ingredients, you can make a hot pot soup base from scratch or opt for a pre-made one. Then, add any hard veggies or items that will take longer to cook. Once those are almost fully cooked, you can add thinly sliced meat, tofu, and the noodles of choice. Make sure to add some green onions as a garnish before digging in!

Alternatively, you can also purchase an instant version of a Sichuan hot pot. These instant versions come with a self-heating hot pot. They save time on prep and cleanup. 

How Long Does Malatang Last?

If you have already used the spicy hot pot broth to cook meat, veggies, and noodles, malatang will last in the fridge for about three days. Suppose you only assembled the broth and did not add additional ingredients; then you can keep malatang in the fridge or freezer for months. 

Storage Notes:

Once the Sichuan hot pot has cooled, keep it in the fridge for up to three days before it is no longer good. It's important to note that it's best to reheat malatang on the stove before consuming it. 

If you haven’t added other ingredients to the soup, you can store the soup base in the fridge for up to four months. Or, you can keep it in a container in the freezer for up to eight months. 

Different Types of Malatang 

Chopsticks holding noodles in malatang.

There are a few different varieties of malatang that you can enjoy. Next time you head to a restaurant or street vendor that offers malatang, you can order one of the below options. 

On a Skewer

Each protein or veggie is assembled on a skewer, then dropped into the Sichuan hot pot broth. This option makes it easier to take the skewers on the go. You'll see this variety of hot pot often served by street vendors. 

By Weight Style of Malatang

When ordering malatang by weight, you'll select your ingredients and add them to a large bowl. When you get to the counter, weigh your chosen ingredients, then select the broth you desire. This variety is the most easily customizable option. 


Bowl-style Sichuan hot pot is served in an individual bowl with your desired toppings. 

Hot Pot-Style

Hot pot malatang is a sit-down meal for two or more people with a boiling hot malatang broth in the middle of the table. 


This style of spicy hot pot is cooked in a typical casserole dish. You can eat this variety of malatang solo or with a group. 

Where to Find Malatang 

You can find a delicious bowl of Sichuan hot pot at malatang restaurants. There are a few options in the U.S., but they are fairly spread out. The easiest option is cooking a homemade version of malatang. If you're in China or Korea, you'll find this tasty soup much more easily!

Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.