Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Hot Pot Menu

If you ask anyone, foreigner or local, what food they associate with Sichuan they will always mention hot pot. This post, which I will be revising and updating, is a basic guide to the things you might find on a typical hot pot menu in Chengdu. The list is in general order of how you might eat hot pot - first fish, then meats, then vegetables, then tofu, and finally noodles.

The Soup

The soup (汤,tāng) varies quite a bit between hot pot places. The Baidu dictionary lists over a hundred kinds of Sichuan hot pot, but one of the easiest kinds to start with is the combination of spicy red and mild white soup known as yuanyang. You can later branch out into the suancai, tomato, or lenguoyu (cold pot fish) styles. The basics:

鸳鸯, yuānyāng, half spicy and half mild (white) soup
白汤, báitāng, not spicy (white broth)
红汤, hóngtāng, red and spicy broth
未辣, wèilà, red broth with a little heat
中辣, zhōnglà, medium spicy red broth

Dipping Sauce

The next order of business is the little bowl of dipping sauce (油碟 yóudié). This is usually a sesame oil or oyster sauce base, and there will be stir-ins available including garlic, cilantro, fresh chilies, 'gan haijiao' (dried hot peppers), vinegar, salt, and msg.

芝麻油, zhīma yóu, sesame oil
蚝油, háoyóu, oyster sauce

To Drink

You want something to cool down the palate. Beer is good, peanut milk is magic.

啤酒, píjiŭ, beer
豆奶, dòunăi, peanut milk

Fish and Such

Eels are very popular and are invariably found on the hot pot menu. Shrimp dumplings are highly recommended, if your place has them.

鳝鱼, shànyú, freshwater eel,
鱿鱼, yóuyú, squid
(大)鱼头, dàyútóu, (big) fish head
鱼皮, yúpí, fish skin,
虾饺, xiājiăo, shrimp dumplings
牛蛙, niúwā, bullfrogs
黄辣丁, huánglàdīng, yellow catfish?
带鱼, dàiyú, ribbon fish
三文鱼, sānwényú, salmon,

The Whole Animal

Beef and lamb often come in very thin slices. It's best to dunk them in the soup with chopsticks and hold them in the broth until they are done, otherwise the meat will shrivel into overcooked rags. I'm not a specialist on the characteristics of each of a cow's four stomachs, but the 'bumpy' and 'strips' tripe are both delicious. The p**ing meatballs have broth inside that squirts out when you bite into them, and are great. Quail eggs are a must-order. The goose and duck tripe develop a great chewiness.

羊肉(卷), yángròu(juăn), lamb (rolls)
黄喉, huánghóu, throat of a pig (very, very popular)
(肥)牛肉, (féi) niúròu,(fatty) beef
牛杂, niúzá, assorted beef entrails
毛肚, máodù,'bumpy' tripe,
千层肚, qiāncéngdŭ, tripe with strips
脑花, năohuā, pig brains,
香菜丸子, xiāngcàiwánzĭ, cilantro meatballs
香菜圆子, xiāngcàiyuánzĭ, cilantro meatballs
新鲜牛丸, xīnxiān niúwán, fresh beef meatballs
脆皮肠, cuìpícháng, sausage
鹌鹑蛋, ānchún dàn, quail eggs
撒尿牛丸, sānìniúwán, p**ing meatballs
牛舌, niúshé, beef tongue
鸭脚, yājiăo, duck feet
鹅肠, écháng, goose tripe
鸭肠, yācháng, duck tripe
鸡片, jīpiān, sliced chicken
鸭血, yāxiĕ, duck blood cubes
鸭舌, yāshé, duck tongue
火腿, huŏtuĭ, ham (usually spam)
午餐肉, wŭcānròu, luncheon meat
肥肠, féicháng, pork tripe
鹅肝, égān, goose liver
(无骨) 风爪, (wúgŭ) fēngzhuă, (boneless) chicken feet


Vegetables' varied colours and textures provide a great contrast between ingredients. This section needs the most updating; there are usually thirty to fifty items in the vegetable section. Looking forward to more field research.

藕片, ŏupiān, sliced lotus root
土豆片, tŭdòupiān, sliced potato
花菜, huācài, cauliflower
豆芽, dòuyá, beansprouts
山药, shānyào, mountain yam
百菜, băicài, cabbage
海带, hăidài, seaweed strips
蕃茄, fānqié, tomato
海白菜, hăibáicài, seaweed plant
黄金菇, huángjīn gū, yellow mushrooms
茶树菇, cháshùgū, tea tree mushrooms
金针菇, jīnzhēngū, enoki mushrooms
香菇, xiānggū, shiitake mushrooms
鸡腿菇, jītuĭgū, chicken leg mushrooms
木耳, mùĕr, wood ear mushroom
平菇, pínggū, oyster mushrooms
老人头菌, lăoréntóujùn, old person's head mushroom
冬瓜, dōngguā, winter melon,
窝笋(头), wōsŭn (tóu), celtuce
黄花, huánghuā、lily buds (usually dried)
黄瓜, huángguā, cucumber
生菜, shēngcài, green leaf lettuce
萝卜, luóbo, radish
香芋, xiāngyù, taro,
竹笋, zhúsŭn, bamboo shoots


Tofu skin is a must order. It is great to chew and soaks up the flavour of the hot pot broth fantastically. The frozen tofu has a grainy texture that helps it absorb more hot pot flavour.

豆腐干, dòufugān, dried tofu,
豆腐皮, dòufupí, tofu 'skin'
冻豆腐, dòng dòufu, frozen tofu


Konnyaku is a diet food, pure fibre, with a texture like finger jello. Niangao gets wonderfully chewy. Potato starch noodles go from white to transparent in the soup, and the dark brown brake root noodles become like jelly. Scooping slippery noodles out of hot pot soup is a tough feat for the chopstick challenged, but is my favourite part. At this point you can also take some soup from the mild side into your bowl and drink. It's delicious.

魔芋, móyù, konnyaku
土豆粉, tŭdòufĕn, potato starch noodles,
粉丝, fĕnsī, bean thread noodles
年糕, niángāo, rice cake
苕粉, sháofĕn, sweet potato (红苕) noodles
厥根粉, juégēnfĕn, brake root noodles


  1. Thank you for this wonderful list - gives me loads of ideas for the next time I have a hot pot at home! (Unfortunately, it'll probably be next winter!)

  2. Translating a hot pot menu is a project I've wanted to do for a long time. It's a work in progress : )

    Hot pot is an all seasons thing here, it's good in summer because it helps you sweat and the 麻 (ma2, numbing) sichuan peppercorns are supposed to help your body deal with excess moisture.

  3. very useful! probably attache some photo here

  4. I just love the list you put! It is going to be very helpful when I go to Chengdu next Saturday.

  5. Wow thanks for the list. Will keep it handy for our hot pots at home!



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