Chongqing hotpot, a century-old Chinese dish named after its birthplace, Chongqing City in the country's southwest, has become a potential rival to the global fast-food giants like McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the US-based Dicos.
Invented by local boatmen and dockers in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the dish was made from cheap meats, hot peppers and ginger, which after being boiled together in a big potand eaten can effectively dispel cold, damp and tiredness.
Xu Zhongmin, vice-mayor of the hilly municipality, said the city alone these days boasted more than 1,000 hotpot restaurants, which mainly in the form of chain restaurants had spread to 23 provinces and municipalities in China and foreign countries including the United States.
The trend has caught the attention of global fast-food giants who claim they have never encountered a competent indigenous Chinese restaurant chain.
"Hotpot may be an exception," said Huang Yuejin, a senior manager with the Dicos Food Development Company Ltd (Chongqing).
According to him, a common weakness for most Chinese restaurants is that the flavors of their dishes rely too much on the cooking skills of individual chefs which makes it extremely difficult for chain restaurants to achieve standardized production.
To eliminate this problem, Chongqing hotpot restaurants learnedfrom the western chains to standardize their raw materials, condiments and menus from which diners may choose.
Currently, the annual turnover of hotpot restaurants in Chongqing City stands at about 3 billion yuan (about 361.45 million US dollars).
Chou Yi, secretary-general of the Chongqing Hotpot Association,predicted that with more and more people trying this dish, the name hotpot would become synonymous not just with the city but also for the country.
(People's Daily December 19, 2002)