The Flavors of Málàtàng


Sichuan food is known to be spicy. Málàtàng, one of the most famous dishes in Sichuan, is one of the spiciest out there, yet it is definitely worth a taste

Ask anyone in China from which province hails the spiciest food of all, and they will answer without hesitation: Sichuan province. It is a well known fact that Sichuan food is spicy, and, perhaps because of that fact, it is very popular and loved by many people in China. One of the dishes/cooking styles that allow Sichuan food to maintain its glow in China is called Málàtàng.

Málàtàng is a type of Sichuan Food that contains skewered vegetables and meat cooked in a hot and spicy soup. Literally, “Má” means numbness (the sensation one gets when eating Málàtàng), “là” means spicy and “tàng” means steaming hot. Málàtàng combines various raw ingredients such as different types of vegetables (cabbage, mushroom, lettuce, caraway, beans ,kelp, broccoli, spinach, coriander and other green vegetables), meats (usually pork or chicken), dried tofu, and fish balls.


There are many different ways to prepare, serve and eat Málàtàng (麻辣烫). One of the most popular ways is the one in which the eater himself chooses the vegetables, meats and/or tofu and collects them into a basket or a plate. The eater then puts his foods of choice together in a bowl that contains boiling water and decides on the amount of cooking time. Once the Sichuan Food is soft, it is taken out of the water and placed in a bowl that contains májiàng (麻酱) – Sesame Paste and other condiments such as salt, vinegar and spicy pepper (làjiāo – 辣椒).

Sichuan Food – Too Spicy to Handle?

Although Málàtàng is a Sichuan street food, it has gained popularity in China, and many Chinese (and foreigners) who live outside of Sichuan enjoy it. Málàtàng is not for the weak hearted though – its spiciness often causes the tongue to get numb, and it may be wise to have a bottle of water at hand. Nevertheless, it is still one of the best spicy Sichuan food you can find!

Photos by Yonathan Scharf