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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Yang Guo Fu Malatang, Dixon House Food Court, Haymarket

Self-serve hot pot at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket

Hello winter. Sydney seemed to go from a stretched-out summer to bone-chilling winter in an instant. The cure? Hot pot. Specifically malatang. Don't know what this is? It's a street food-style hot pot that originated in Sichuan but has become increasingly popular in Beijing. Mala means hot and numbing, the sensation you get from Sichuan peppercorns. Tang means boiling hot. If anything is going to warm you up on an icy cold evening, it's this. Trust me.

Most of us are familiar with hot pot or steamboat, where everyone gathers around a table and cooks meat, vegetables and seafood in a communal pot of clear stock in the middle. Malatang is a heavier and spicier soup. Malatang stalls go a step further, allowing you to choose what you want and then cooking it for you. No need to shop! No need to cook! Win win.

Hot pot self-serve ingredients for malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Self-serve hot pot ingredients for malatang hot and numbing soup

Malatang stalls have popped up in Chinatown food courts Eating World (next to Gumshara) and in Dixon House Food Court. Neither offer much in the way of instructions for newcomers.

We join the chaos inside the lurid neon delight that is Dixon House Food Court. I have a sentimental love for this hidden food court with its harsh lighting, dated decor and the constant call of orders from the sizzling stall in the corner ("Number forty twoooooo....... number forty twoooooooo").

Bean curd sheets at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Bean curd sheets

So here's the deal for malatang. Join the queue (there's always one). Grab a stainless steel bowl and a set of tongs. Shuffle down the line and add to the bowl whatever takes your fancy.

Lotus roots and bamboo shoots at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Lotus roots and bamboo shoots

The smorgasbord includes bean curd sheets, lotus roots and bamboo shoots...

Enoki mushrooms at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Enoki mushrooms

all kinds of exotic mushrooms...

Konjac shirataki noodles made from elephant yam at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Konjac or shirataki noodles made from elephant yam

a plethora of noodles...

Fish balls and fish cakes at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Fish balls and fish cakes 

a protein lover's delight of fishcakes...

Meat balls, fish balls, fish cakes, tofu puffs and spam at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Meat balls, fish balls, fish cakes, tofu puffs and spam

plus hunks of Spam.

Instant noodles, seafood sticks and crab balls at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Instant noodles, seafood sticks and crab balls

Wet noodles are along the bottom (like the almost-zero calorie shirataki noodle). Dry noodles, including vermicelli and two-minute noodles, line the top shelf.

Chrysanthemum leaves at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Chrysanthemum leaves

Don't forget your greens. And take twice as much as you think you need. Each handful will shrink down to almost nothing after it's cooked.

Pay by weight hot pot at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Pay for your hotpot ingredients by weight

Your bowl is then weighed for payment, costed at $24 per kilogram. It's easy to get carried away so try and rope in a few mates to share. You can always have a multi-course meal from different stalls around the food court. Our malatang bowl came to about $17. Don't worry. You don't have to pay for the soup.

At the counter they'll ask if you want slices of frozen beef for $2.50 per serve. You can also request Harbin sausages - housemade and only available behind the counter.

Black fungus, lotus roots, bamboo shoots and sweet potato slices at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Black fungus, lotus roots, bamboo shoots and sweet potato slices 

You'll be given a fancy keyring with your order number on the tag. It only takes the kitchen a few minutes for them to cook your ingredients in the soup, but depending on the backlog, you may have to wait ten to fifteen minutes. They'll call your number if you want to roam the food court or scout for a table.

Malatang ready at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Malatang cooked and ready

When your number is called, your cooked malatang will be ready to pick up in a bright red melamine bowl. You can also get it to takeaway in plastic containers if you prefer (tell them when you order).

Explanation of sauces at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Explanation of sauces

Next comes the saucing ritual. A small sign above the buffet explains the sauces you can choose.

Sauce station of garlic, pepper oil,sugar, chilli sauce and sesame paste at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Sauce station of garlic, pepper oil, sugar, chilli sauce and sesame paste

Basically I'd just accept everything. Staff know what they're doing and unless you have a huge aversion to something, they all contribute a complementing flavour profile to your final soup.

Adding Chinkiang black vinegar to our malatang at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Adding Chinkiang black vinegar

They'll ladle on a huge spoonful of garlic sauce, sesame paste, Chinese pepper oil, sugar and a generous slosh of Chinkiang black vinegar. That's the same vinegar you combine with soy sauce for xiao long bao soup dumplings.

Get your chilli sauce on the side at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Ask for chilli sauce on the side

You can request varying levels of heat for your soup but the most fool proof method is to ask for the chilli sauce on the side. We found this sauce to be volcanic in heat and barely used a teaspoonful between the four of us (this was stop one on a night that involved four dinner stops around Chinatown).

Malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Our malatang

Ask for extra bowls if you're sharing and then hightail it back to your table.

Chopsticks and noodles in our malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Mixing all the sauces 

Use your chopsticks to mix all the sauces so everything is combined really well. Then dig in.

Beef slices, vegetables and vermicelli noodles in our malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Beef slices

There's a rib-sticking heartiness to the beef soup, amplified by the spicy, sweet, sour and salty notes of the added sauces. And even though it looks like there's a heap of garlic in there, it's far from pervading. There's no harshness of garlic. Instead it quietly hums in the background.

The soup has a complexity of spices that includes cloves, star anise, ginger. The numbing sensation from Sichuan pepper is strangely addictive. You don't necessarily have to drink the soup either. Many just eat the hot pot ingredients and use the soup as a kind of sauce.

Vermicelli noodles in our malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket
Vermicelli noodles

We went with vermicelli noodles that soaked up the soup brilliantly. Advanced players at this game will start playing off ingredients by weight in order to maximise value. That's the Asian aunty in me talking.

Customers designing their own malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket

For fast and cheap winter warming, malatang is hard to beat. Bring your mates, go all in, and expect a squabble over who gets the last fish ball.

Ingredients for malatang hot and numbing soup at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, Haymarket


Yang Guo Fu Malatang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang
Shop B9, Dixon House Food Court
413–415 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Tel: +61 (0)414 388 878 / +61 (0)431 317 777

Open daily 10.30am-8.30pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Red Chilli Sichuan, Chatswood
DIY hot pot (Stomachs Eleven)

15 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/01/2016 12:19:00 am


15 Comments:

  • At 6/01/2016 7:00 am, Blogger tim_g said…

    love these places! on the weekend i went to ma la xiang guo in burwood which does the same thing, but also has dry hot pot on the menu which is more unusual? and yum

     
  • At 6/01/2016 7:59 am, Anonymous John - heneedsfood said…

    It's been way too long since I last stepped foot in that food court. Looks like I'll be souping it next time I go. Yum!

     
  • At 6/01/2016 9:36 am, Blogger Petra Becker said…

    Next destination for this soup lover!

     
  • At 6/01/2016 10:54 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Every possible ingredient under the sun to include. This looks like a lot of fun. Plus a good reminder that I haven't been to Dixon House in eons!!

     
  • At 6/01/2016 2:23 pm, Blogger ista said…

    Yum - I ought to try this next time I'm there

     
  • At 6/01/2016 2:52 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I've heard about how good this place is! I want to try all the fish cakes and fish balls hahaha

     
  • At 6/01/2016 3:25 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    Ooh looks like fun but I have a bad feeling I won't be able to stop myself from adding everything into my bowl haha

     
  • At 6/01/2016 5:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a little like yong tau fu, which I really miss from Sing and Malaysia. Does anyone know where you can get this in Sydney? (Preferably in a food court / hawker centre.) Thanks.

     
  • At 6/01/2016 10:43 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi tim_g - Yes there are a few dry hot pot places in Chinatown. I'm still getting my around the fact that it's not a stir-fry. Lol. Am keen to try though.

     
  • At 6/01/2016 10:50 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - I miss yong tau fu too! I haven't seen this in Sydney as a choose-your-own set-up. I expect it's difficult because fresh fish paste stuffed into vegetables and tofu is a) a time-consuming manual job and b) doesn't have a long shelf life so needs rapid turnover. You can get it as a dish at Albee's in Campsie though.

     
  • At 6/02/2016 8:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen I just love your blog. I always look forward to reading about your culinary adventures each week. I love that you focus on cheap eats and its not all fine dining. Very accessible and lots of fun. Thanks for all your hard work.

     
  • At 6/02/2016 7:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen, thanks for the reply on yong tau foo. It is very labour intensive, isn't it. Will have to get back to Singapore!
    Stan.

     
  • At 6/03/2016 5:29 pm, Blogger irene said…

    This place has my name all over it. I bet I can't stop myself putting everything into my bowl!

     
  • At 6/05/2016 10:48 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    What a great idea - I'd love to try this. And yes, the weather changed in a heartbeat! How bad is it this weekend??? xx

     
  • At 6/18/2017 3:15 am, Blogger Stephanie Fairhall said…

    I ate here tonight and it took me hours of web searching to figure out that i wasn't having an allergic reaction but that it was the Sichuan peppercorns. My throat felt so tight and i was so scared :P

     

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