Hotpot or Huǒguō (火锅) in Mandarin is a traditional Chinese way of eating, usually a communal activity in which groups of people or friends can enjoy, socialize and eat and drink at the same time. People will sit around a simmering metal pot of broth with a variety of raw ingredient dishes on the table ready to cook in the pot.

China is often regarded as the home of hotpot, and it has existed here for thousands of years. Nowadays hotpot continues to be extremely popular around China and the rest of the world with plenty of hotpot restaurant chains. If you’re in China, it’s definitely an experience you must try. And so we’ve cooked up our Mandarin learner’s guide to everything you need to know about hotpot.


Once you get your table at a hotpot restaurant, you’ll be asked what type of soup you want in your pot. This is called Tāng dǐ  (汤底) meaning soup base, and you will generally have the following options.

Tāng dǐ (汤底) - soup base

Málà guō 麻辣 -  Spicy soup

Fānqié guō 番茄 - Tomato soup

Jūntāng guō (菌汤锅)- mushroom soup

Hǎixiān guō (海鲜锅) - seafood soup

Yuānyangguō 鸳鸯锅) - Two-flavoured hotpot

Most common is the spicy soup flavoured hotpot, especially in regions such as Sichuan and Chongqing where spicy cuisine is very much part of the culture and lifestyle. However if you’re like me and sometimes some chili peppers are too hot to handle, you may want to go with the two-flavoured hotpot, which is also more inclusive for everyone’s tastes.


Usually hotpot restaurants allow you to make your own sauce dish as well, and have a section in the restaurant to this. You will get a Yóudiér (油碟儿) meaning oil dish, and then select a mix of the following condiments below depending on your taste. Once you’ve done this, then you add some oil and voila, that is your sauce dish where you can dip the cooked food into for some extra taste.

Yóu diér (油碟) – Oil dish

Zhīma (芝麻) – sesame

Xiāngcài (香菜) – Coriander

Cōng () – Green onion

Làjiāo (辣椒) – Chilli

Zhé ěrgēn (折耳根) – Fish Root

Háoyóu (蚝油) – Oyster sauce

Wèijīng (味精) – MSG

Huāshēng (花生) – Peanuts

Dàtóu cài (大头菜) – Kohlrabi

Suàn () – Garlic


Next is the best part, ordering what dishes you want, and there is such a variety, there really is something for everyone.

Diǎn cài (点菜) – Ordering dishes

Let’s get to the meat of it. All meat lovers can choose generally from the following options.

Hūncài (荤菜) – meat dishes

Féiniú juǎnr (肥牛卷) – Beef roll

niúròu juǎnr (牛肉卷) – Frozen rolled beef

yángròu juǎnr (羊肉卷) – Frozen rolled mutton

Xiā jiǎo (虾饺) – Shrimp dumpling

yā cháng (鸭肠) – Duck intestine

ānchún dàn (鹌鹑蛋) – Quail egg

Cuìpí cháng (脆皮肠) – Crispy sausage

Wǔcān ròu (午餐肉) – Pork luncheon meat

Qiān céng dǔ (千层肚) – Thousand-layer cow tripe

máo dǔ (毛肚) – Beef/cow stomach

niú bǎi yè (牛百叶) – cow stomach

zhū nǎo (猪脑) – Pig’s brain

xiāngcháng (香肠) – sausage

yú piànr (鱼片) – boneless fish slices

yú wán (鱼丸) – fish balls

yóuyú (鱿鱼) – squid

Ròu wán(肉丸) - meatball


Let’s not forget the vegetarians as well, below are some of the typical vegetable dishes on offer.

Shūcài (蔬菜)- vegetables

Qīng sǔn tiáo (青笋条) – Asparagus root

Shēngcài (生菜) – Lettuce

dòufu pí (豆腐皮) – tofu skin

Ǒu piànr (藕片) – Lotus root

mù'ěr (木耳) – edible tree fungus (jelly ear)

Xiānggū (香菇) – mushrooms

Jīnzhēn gū (金针菇) – enoki mushrooms, needle mushrooms

hǎidài (海带) – kelp, seaweed

báiluóbo piànr (白萝卜片) – White radish slices

Báicài (白菜) - Chinese cabbage

Xī lán huā 西兰花) - Broccoli

Tǔdòu 土豆) - potato

Shānyào (山药) - Chinese yam

Yùmǐ (玉米) - sweetcorn


Although rare, you can also add a bowl or rice, or add some instant noodles into the pot, to eat along with the dishes.

Mǐfàn (米饭) – rice

Fāngbiàn miàn (方便面) – Instant noodles


And lastly put some drinks on the table. There’s nothing better than a good hotpot and beer with your friends. Or for those of you who do not drink alcohol, a bottle of soy milk is equally as suitable for the occasion.

Yǐnliào (饮料) – drinks

Chá () – tea

Píjiǔ (啤酒) – beer

Kělè (可乐) – coca cola

Dòunǎi (豆奶) – soy milk


Below are some of the most famous hotpot restaurants chains in all of China. Looks out for these when you want to give it a try.

Famous Hotpot Restaurant Chains in China

Hǎi Dǐ Lāo (海底捞) – Haidilao

Xiǎo Lóng Kǎn Huǒguō (小龙坎火锅) - Xiao Long Kan Hotpot

Dà Lóng Yì Huǒguō (大龙燚火锅) – Dalongyi Hotpot

Liú Yī Shǒu Huǒguō (刘一手火锅) - Liuyishou Hot Pot


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