When you first open the malatang menu at your local restaurant or begin perusing the aisles, you'll find yourself struck with a variety of menu items you may not have eaten before: offal. Also known as organ meats, offal are just that—the internal parts of your favourite animals to chow down on. If you're not familiar with eating organs, the idea may sound off-putting at first. However, give them a try and you'll be surprised to find just how delicious they are.
Here are three top suggestions of unmissable offal to add to your malatang alongside regular meat and fish.
The most common and popular offal on any malatang menu is tripe. Beef tripe (the stomach lining of a cow) is a delicacy that Chinese people eat in a variety of dishes. Depending on the restaurant you're at, the tripe on offer may be braised or fried. No matter how it's prepared, the reason it's so great in malatang is that it has a mild flavour and absorbs the other seasonings from the dish perfectly. In that respect, it's fairly similar to tofu. The extra layer it adds to the dish is so elevating that many malatang enthusiasts won't eat a hot pot without it.
Another must-try ingredient is duck intestine. Duck intestines are relatively thin in comparison to other types of offal, such as aorta (throat). Because of this, they have less of a strong scent, making them perfect for organ beginners. Despite that, they pack plenty of flavour. If you do choose to add duck intestines to your malatang, don't just drop them into the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Instead, dip them in and out of the broth several times to keep them crispy and avoid a tough, chewy texture. Natives of Sichuan province, the area malatang hails from, recommend dipping them around eight times.
If you're feeling brave enough to try pig brains, you'll soon find they become one of your favourite malatang ingredients. They have low odour, but their texture is where they really shine. Once cooked, pig brains are incredibly creamy. The smooth, velvety mouthfeel is akin to steamed egg or soft tofu and the flavour works perfectly with the fats and spices in the soup. This type of offal is also very nutritious and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, although it is high in cholesterol for those with heart problems.