There has been an influx of a new style of Chinese restaurants in Sydney recently serving up a Chinese street food called “malatang”, which is translated as “spicy numbing hot soup”. Today we popped by Zhang Liang Spicy Hotpot in Haymarket to check out their new express hotpot/steamboat for one.
Zhang Liang Spicy Hotpot falls into this category as a Chinese malatang chain with over 4,800 stores that has chosen Sydney for its first overseas outpost, setting up shop in the heart of our Chinatown with a very simple proposition for its customers – pick whatever ingredients you like from their buffet, have your bowl full of ingredients weighed for payment (priced at a reasonable rate of $2.68 per 100g) and the kitchen will cook your bowl of ingredients for you in your chosen style of soup.
The restaurant has a no-frills, canteen vibe, with a chilled refrigerator section with billowing curtains of cold air parting to reveal a smorgasbord of frozen and fresh ingredients on display for diners to choose from – think sliced meats, seafood, different styles of dumplings, every kind of fish ball and crabstick imaginable, mushrooms, leafy greens and a decent range of noodles (including our guilty pleasure, instant ramen…)
Once you have made your way through the ingredients buffet, diners can choose from either clear stock or the signature malatang soup base which features Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies to create a distinctive flavour that lingers on your tongue and infuses into your chosen ingredients for extra tastiness. We tried one of each soup base and can confirm that the flavoursome malatang broth predictably overshadows the less adventurous clear broth option, although if you can’t handle any spice you’ll need to go for the latter option.
If the soup base alone isn’t enough flavour for you – there’s also a condiments station next to the cashier counter where Zhang Liang’s handmade sesame sauce can be scooped into your own personal sauce dish, for you to mix and match to your heart’s content with other delicious condiments like XO sauce, barbecue sauce, chilli oil (if you like the heat!), minced garlic and green onions.
As newbies to malatang we admittedly went a little too hard on the ingredients when we lined up at the buffet because we wanted to try a bit of everything and couldn’t visualise how big our bowl would be when everything was cooked.
We had a bit of a rude shock when we saw how gigantic the bowls were coming out of the kitchen (about double the size of the usual ramen bowls around town)! Our monster sized bowls of noodle soup ended up making for a satisfying and fast meal, the servings were generous for the price with the bonus fun of being able to select your own ingredients and condiments to customise your meal to suit your palate.
We can definitely see malatang being even more satisfying in the winter chill and plan to be back again to fill up when the weather gets cooler and we’re craving some fast comfort food.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Zhang Liang Spicy Hotpot
Zhang Liang Spicy Hotpot
Shop 1B&1C, 718 George Street, Haymarket NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9281 9137