Guide to Malatang
More and more Malatang restaurants are popping up in Sydney and I’m all for it.
Malatang is a street food from Chengdu, the capital for everything Mala. “Ma” means numb in Chinese and “la” means spicy. It’s the signature numbing-spicy sensation you get from eating Sichuanese food.
“Tang” means soup. So Malatang is literally numbing-spicy-soup.
But if you’re not a big fan of mala or spicy food then you can always pick a non-spicy soup base, because Malatang restaurants is all about picking and choosing what you want.
It’s a cheap fast meal that’s so satisfying on cold days – it almost feels wrong to be able to get something so tasty, so fast and for so little.
But like most ethnic foods that have yet to get into the mainstream (give it a few more years) a lot of people are missing out because it’s not similar to anything else we have in Australia.
Which is why I thought I’ll write a guide to help you visit your first Malatang place.
What to expect
Malatang isn’t fine dining. It’s fast, its cheap and it’s really delicious.
Expect your Malatang restaurant layout to consist of a wall(s) full of refrigerators housing various foods. You have your noodle section, proteins, veggies, fungi, tofu products etc.
You’ll also see a small station near the front with all the equipment. The tongs and the bowls – just like grabbing a tray and a plate at a cafeteria.
Your meal is priced by weight. It doesn’t matter what you choose, every item they offer is essentially the same price per unit weight. The price is normally somewhere on the wall very visible for everyone to see.
And lastly, expect it to be busy. It’s not a place to spend an afternoon at or catchup with a friend you haven’t seen all year. It’s a casual dinging place where most people come in, eat, leave.
Okay - so how does it work?
Step 1: Grab a bow and a pair of tongs
As mentioned before, you’ll find a station will bowls stacked for you to use. They could be paper or plastic depending on where you go.
You might find a bucket of tongs nearby, but sometimes the tongs are at each food section instead similar to a buffet.
Tip from my bro: Shake the water out of the bowl to make sure you’re NOT paying for water LOL
Step 2: Choose your food
Every place will arrange their options differently and there’s no science to it.
See what you like and simply put as much as you want into your bowl. The cheaper stuff is mostly located at the front with the more expensive stuff nearer to the end.
But this isn’t fine dining and so no matter what you do, it’s not going to break the bank. Choose what you want without fear of not getting your money’s worth.
Step 3: Get your bowl weighed
Once you’ve selected what you want you can head over to the cashier where they weigh your bowl and the finally price is determined.
Step 4: Choose your soup base
Malatang is obviously going to be available. You will most likely get a range of options that vary in level of spice and the animal stock base used.
My go to is tomato because I love tomato-anything.
Step 5: Wait for your bowl to be cooked
Your bowl of goodies will be taken away once you’ve paid and selected your soup base. They’ll cook it back in the kitchen, which takes a few minutes at most.
Grab a seat and table while you wait.
Step 6: Add more flavour
Once your noodles are done, you can grab them to the condiment section where you’ll find a whole range of herbs, toppings, and sauces to make your bowl of noodles perfect.
It’s similar to hot pot, where you just pick what you want and mix it into your noodles to add to the flavour.
Step 7: Enjoy
Relax into your seat with your steaming hot bowl of noodles in front of you and enjoy your meal 🙂