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Turn Down the Heat! Non-Spicy Food Alternatives in Spicy Chongqing

By Elaine Pang , Add your comment Newsletter

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Clammy winters aside, Chongqing is reputed among the Chinese as the land of “hot”. From fiery summers, which make Chongqing one of China’s four “furnaces”, to spicy local cuisine, the mega-city of Chongqing is one hot destination. Chongqing cuisine is a heady mix of chili and huajiao (prickly ash) in generous servings of oil. For the uninitiated and the faint-hearted, this can prove a bit much both for the palate as well as the digestive system. Fortunately, non-spicy Chongqing dishes do exist. Milder dishes may pale in reputation to their spicier cousins, but they need not taste bland. On those days when you or your stomach favors a walk on the mild side, keep this list of mild Chongqing cuisine alternatives in mind. Then the only hot items you’ll experience are the spicy Chongqing girls and the hot Chongqing summers.


Non-Spicy Local Restaurants

Feeling less than confident about picking up milder dishes on the menu? Select a restaurant specializing in non-spicy dishes. After all, there are always locals that eschew spicy food. Foreign restaurants aside, here’s where they eat.

1) Hotpot-style Restaurants
Usually a spicy gourmet destination, the more reputable hotpot restaurants offer credible clear mushroom or chicken soup bases. Other than that, the Chongqing people’s love for all things hotpot has spawned quite a few non-spicy variations.

2) Laoya Tang Restaurants (Duck Soup)
Literally Old Duck Soup, the direct translation for Laoya Tang (老鸭汤) is hardly appetizing. But old is good in Chinese cuisine. Here, the implication is the duck in this non-spicy hotpot is mature and free of artificial growth hormones. Besides enjoying the duck meat, order vegetables and other side dishes to cook in the clear broth.

3) Fish Hotpot Restaurants
Few locals are fish people, so they usually try to cover up the muddy taste of bony river fish with copious amounts of chili. For fish in its natural form, certain types of fish restaurants do just that. Look for Changtou Yu (长头鱼) restaurants. Literally, long-headed fish, these restaurants keep these live fish in large tanks. Chefs will carve up fish of your selection in the restaurants into fine boneless slices for you to cook in clear soup.

4) Chicken Soup Restaurants
Chicken soup can be considered an anomaly in Chongqing cuisine so such restaurants also offer accompanying dishes, both spicy and non-spicy. The alarming layer of yellow oil above the chicken soup is a sign to locals that the fat comes from a “free-range” chicken. Wait staff can skim it off should you have cholesterol concerns.

5) Restaurants Serving Cuisine from Other Parts of China
Cuisine from other parts of China are considered non-local, since anything non-spicy is considered “foreign” to any true Chongqing local. Predictably, restaurants from elsewhere in China almost always serve non-spicy food. For gut-saving alternatives that do not compromise on taste, check out Yunnanese Mushroom hotpot restaurants, Hong Kong Tea Rooms and Peking Duck Restaurants. One significant difference in Peking Duck restaurants here is the accompanying duck soup served hotpot-style for additional ingredients to be cooked in.

Non-spicy Dishes

Restaurants are usually happy to accommodate sensitive palates upon request by not adding additional spices. However, some ingredients are pre-cooked or marinated, so if you can’t tolerate any amount of chili, choose from the following dishes on menus instead.

1) Guoba Roupian
Guoba Roupian is a dish that scores in the taste department while providing a visual spectacle sure to impress visitors. Puffed rice squares (Guoba) sizzle audibly when coming in contact with a clear gravy of pork slices. Great for fans of Rice Krispies.

2) Tangcu Liji and Other Sweet-and-Sour Dishes
Found in Chinese restaurants everywhere, sweet-and-sour pork needs no introduction. More unusual pairings include fish, eggplant or pork ribs. Just ask for tangcu or yuxiang fish-flavored dishes for the sweet-and-sour flavor. Savor the clash of tastes in pork slivers (Yuxiang Rousi) and battered eggplant (Yuxiang Qiebing).

3) Jinsha Yumi
Local corn, almost devoid of taste and colour, has few foreign fans. This dish gets around that by coating individual kernels in a batter of salted egg yolk. Should you feel less adept at picking up individual battered kernels, ask wait staff for a serving spoon.

4) Potato Dishes
A comfort food everywhere, this is one vegetable that even the locals are content to eat without chili. Enjoy in the form of mashed (Tudou Ni), pancake (Tudou Bing) or deep-fried (Ganbian Tudou Si). Potato shreds (Tudou Si) are also commonly fried with green peppers or pork.

5) Glutinous Rice Balls
Another ingredient that is unlikely to be spiced up is glutinous rice. Commonly served in Chongqing homes, Glutinous Rice Balls (Nuomi Tuan orNuomi Yuanzi) are sometimes served steaming hot by street hawkers or jazzed up with a meat sauce in upmarket restaurants. These savory rice balls are usually the size of table tennis balls with bits of ginger, spring onions and even minced meat in them.

6) Vegetable Dishes
Leafy greens are usually stir-fried with dried chili and prickly ash, unless you request otherwise. Should you not wish to compromise on the taste factor, request them fried with garlic. Other than the usual stir-fry, string beans deep-fried with minced pork and salted vegetables (Ganbian Siji Dou) is unique to this region.

7) Noodles
Numbingly hot bowls of Mala Xiaomian may be a local staple, but noodle shops have non-spicy offerings as well. A personal favorite is eggs fried with tomatoes (Xihongshi Jidan Mian), then served in soup with noodles. Simple ingredients, but the skill required for this fry-up is difficult to replicate at home. Other non-spicy noodles are Pork with Salted Vegetables (Suancai Rousi), Noodles with Bean Paste (Zhajiang Mian) and Three Flavor Noodles which includes pork, liver slices and sausage (Sanxian Mian).



English Name


Guōbā Ròupiàn

Crispy Rice with Pork


Tángcù Lǐji

Sweet and Sour Pork


Yúxiāng Ròusī

Sweet and Sour Shredded Pork


Yúxiāng Qiébǐng

Sweet and Sour Battered Eggplant


Jīnshā Yùmǐ

Corn with Salted Egg Yolk


Tǔdòuní / Tǔdòubǐng / Gānbiān Tǔdòusī

Mashed Potatoes/ Potato Pancake, Deep-fried Shredded Potatoes


Nuòmǐtuán / Nuòmǐ Yuánzi

Glutinous Rice Balls


Gānbiān Sìjìdòu

Dry-fried String Beans


Xīhóngshì Jīdàn Miàn

Tomato and Egg Noodles


Suāncài Ròusī

Pork with Salted Vegetable Noodles


Zhájiàng Miàn

Noodles with Bean Paste


Sānxiān Miàn

Three Flavor Noodles

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Keywords: Non-spicy dishes in Chongqing Chongqing cuisine

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