Chóngqìng is all about hotpot (火锅; huǒguō): a fiery cauldron of head-burning làjiāo (辣椒; chillies) and mouth-numbing huājiāo (花椒; Sìchuān peppers) into which is dipped deliciously fresh ingredients, from vegetables and tofu to all types of fish and meat. It’s a dish best sampled with a group. Indeed, hotpot restaurants tend to be among the liveliest you’ll find.

As well as the local noodle dishes, another great thing to sample in Chóngqìng is shāokǎo (烧烤; barbecue skewers), the perfect point-and-eat street food. Just choose your skewers, hand them over and wait for them to come back spiced and grilled. Select from dòufu pí (豆腐皮; tofu skin), xiǎo mántou (小馒头; mini steamed rolls), niángāo (年糕; sticky rice cake), qiézi (茄子; eggplant/aubergine), and jiǔcài (韭菜; leek), among other ingredients.

Shāokǎo barbeque spots are found all over the city. Most shāokǎo places in Chóngqìng also do bowls of pigs brain (脑花; nǎohuā) as a side dish. We dare you.

Hotpot Menu

The best hotpot restaurants are entirely local affairs so you have about as much chance of finding an English menu as you have of being able to eat the thing without your nose running. (Do not underestimate a hotpot’s bite. This part of China is renowned for fiery food, and it doesn’t come spicier than hotpot.)

As with many dishes in Chóngqìng, the first thing to establish when ordering hotpot is how hot you want it – bù là (不辣; not spicy, but in Chóngqìng this will still be spicy), wēi là (微辣; mildly spicy), zhōng là (中辣; medium spicy), zuì là (最辣; very spicy) and jiā má jiā là (加麻加辣; extra, extra spicy).

Then you’ll be given a menu checklist of raw ingredients that you will later cook in your pot. Here are some of our favourites for you to look out for on the menu:

  • yángròu juǎn (羊肉卷; wafer-thin lamb slices)
  • féi niúròu (肥牛肉; beef slices)
  • xiān máodǔ (鲜毛肚; fresh tripe, usually lamb)
  • xiān yācháng (鲜鸭肠; strips of duck intestine)
  • lǎo dòufu (老豆腐; tofu slabs)
  • ǒu piàn (藕片; slices of lotus root)
  • xiān huánghuā (鲜黄花; chrysanthemum stalks)
  • tǔ dòu (土豆; potato slices)
  • bǎi cài (百菜; cabbage leaves)
  • mù’ěr (木耳; mushroom)
  • kōngxīn cài; (空心菜; water spinach)