There are many variations of hot pots in China, but few have earned the same notoriety and reputation as Chongqing’s take on this communal affair. In recent times, the city’s Sichuan mala hot pot has become infamous all over the world, thanks to its fiery soups that have left diners sweating buckets.
Stories have it that the Chongqing hot pot was first invented by workers along the Yangtze River. Hungry and living off a pittance, they collected offal discarded by butchers and cooked them in boiling pots of spicy soups. As the city grew more affluent over the years, better ingredients were included in this humble dish too. Still, offal —— think duck intestines, ox stomach and pig’s blood —— features prominently in today’s Chongqing hot pots.
For Chongqing, hot pot is more than just a well-loved Chinese dish. Having been named China’s ‘Hotpot Capital,’ this city has a lot to live up to. There are over 50,000 hot pot restaurants in Chongqing alone, all well patronised by the city’s 30 million-strong population. Chongqing has also established a ‘hot pot academy’ for aspiring entrepreneurs and workers, offering courses that range from the art of making a hot pot to vocational training. It’s the city’s promise to diners that the traditional craft is well-preserved, assuring that a high standard of ingredients and service can be expected at any restaurant here.
You’ll never need to find an occasion to enjoy hot pot in Chongqing. With so many restaurants offering quality renditions of this fiery , you’d be hard-pressed to find an unsatisfactory one in your vicinity. But if you’re on the lookout for the best, scroll down for some worthy recommendations.
Cygnet Hot Pot (Chongqing Xiao Tian E) - Chongqing Yingli Branch
(Image credit: Cygnet Hot Pot)
Cygnet Hot Pot was first established in 1982 as a humble hot pot stall. As it became more popular, its entrepreneurial founder He Yongzhi expanded the eatery into a major restaurant chain across Chongqing. Chances are, you’ll bump into a branch near your abode. Cygnet’s claim to fame lies in its innovative approach to the hot pot itself. It is one of the first restaurants to introduce split hot pots, allowing diners to enjoy premium meats and fresh offal in both spicy and mild soup options all at the same time. Each restaurant sees beautifully furnished dining rooms tended by attentive wait staff. In the evening, the restaurants put up dance performances to entertain guests as well.
Address: 6F, Yingli International Financial Mansion, 40 Jiefangbei Minquan Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, China
Qi Qi Hot Pot – JieFang Bei Branch
(Image credit: QI QI Hot Pot)
Qi Qi is another popular hot pot spot reputed among the locals to have one of the spiciest broths in Chongqing. Instead of having the spicy broth poured from the kettle, diners get blocks of collagen that are packed with dried chillies which will slowly melt into a pot of boiling fish broth.
Apart from its broth, Qi Qi is also particularly famous for having fresh eel on the menu that’s served in raw slices on a plate. It may not be the easiest thing to get into — though if you enjoy offal, eel would be a walk in the park. Otherwise, you’ll still find plenty of other options from its extensive menu of fresh seafood.
A quick note: This place may not be one of the cleanest spots for hot pot in Chongqing, but it’s the perfect place to be if you want to get a sense of where locals typically dine at.
Address: 5F Saige International Building, 28 Wusi Rd, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, China
Zhao Er Hot Pot – Main Branch
This wallet-friendly, old-school restaurant is a little out of the way from the city centre but it is well worth the trip. Here, you can choose to either have your hot pot in a split pot with both spicy and mild broths, or enjoy it in the more traditional nine-sectioned pot where you can portion out and cook your raw ingredients separately. The owner of the restaurant takes great pride in the soups served here and makes fresh batches daily with plenty of chillies and spices. The soups are complimentary so diners only need to pay for ingredients.
Address: 128 Jiefang Dong Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing China
Da Dui Zhang Lao Hot Pot - Beicheng Tianjie Branch
(Image credit: Da Dui Zhang Lao)
There’s nothing subtle about Da Dui Zhang Lao Hot Pot. Dining here is like travelling back in time as the restaurant’s theme revolves around Mao Ze Dong and 1970s’ Communist China. Guests will find murals of China’s founding father and vintage propaganda posters plastered around the open brick walls of this modern restaurant. To add to the vibe, waiters here don the iconic People’s Liberation Army uniforms, complete with red armbands, pigtails and hair ties. Regardless of political beliefs, diners will still be served mind-numbingly spicy hot pot with humorously-dubbed dishes like ‘Village Chief’ duck intestine and ‘Courage Beef’ slices marinated in Sichuan chillies.
Address: Beicheng Tian Street 10, opposite Yuan Dong Shopping Mall, Chongqing China
Tan Ying Xiong Yu Tou Hotpot Restaurant - Jiangbei Branch
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
This award-winning restaurant is well known for its collagen-rich hot pot broth that is boiled for hours using fresh silver carp fish heads and over 20 different kinds of Chinese herbs. As such, Tan Ying Xiong’s hot pot is a great option for health-conscious diners. Soups are a lot less oily than the ones offered at traditional hot pot restaurants, so diners will not feel uncomfortably bloated after a meal here. For a more flavourful soup, order its fresh fish heads and add them into the hot pot. . The restaurant then recommends mixing the leftover soup and rice together —— a must-have ‘last course’ that’s tempting even on a full stomach.
Address: 52-1 Sanzhi Road, Jianbei, Jiangbei District, Chongqing, China