If food brings people together, then hotpot forges that bond in a blaze of heat, oil and spice. The communal meal – where diners cook their choice of meats, seafood and vegetables by plunging them into a boiling cauldron of broth – is a feature of Chinese cuisine. Within this, there are numerous regional varieties (such as the Sichuan-style hotpot, characterised by its spice), while similar examples of communal hotpot-style dining can be found across East and South-East Asia.

Perth has its fair share of hotpot restaurants, ranging from communal-style establishments where diners cook an assortment of raw ingredients around a shared pot of broth, to “express” versions, where diners pick their own ingredients and enjoy a solo bowl.

Regardless of style, many of Perth’s hotpot restaurants feature a version of “malatang” (translated roughly as “numbing spicy soup”), immediately recognisable by its deep scarlet colour and infused with dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns that leave a numbing sensation after each spoonful. (See our malatang explainer here).

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For those looking for something warm to add to their arsenal against the winter chill, we’ve rounded up some of Perth’s most interesting – and delicious – hotpot restaurants to satisfy both enthusiasts and the uninitiated (but curious) alike.

With the option of having three different flavours of soup in each pot, premium ingredients and a range of dipping sauces, Xiaolongkan is a great option for those looking to try a variety of broths in one sitting. The malatang is the standout, a spicy fragrant broth adjusted to your spice level. For those looking for a milder base, the tomato broth offers a sweeter option, perfect with both meat and seafood. Ordering is made straightforward and efficient thanks to an iPad along the side of each table. Enthusiastic diners can eat without fear, with aprons available at each table to catch any unexpected spills.

U2/191 James Street, Northbridge

Nice to Meet You Chuan Chuan Hot Pot
At this buffet-style CBD spot on the border of Northbridge, diners can grab ingredients by the fistful. Literally. Beef, pork-wrapped mushrooms, vegetables and other hotpot staples are threaded onto skewers for diners to pick and choose at their leisure – so there’s no stress of hunting for an errant meatball at the end of your meal. Diners are charged by the number of skewers consumed. Substantial trays of meat, fish balls and other hotpot favourites are available to order a la carte, which is perfect for feeding a large group. Their malatang is unapologetically spicy, but their menu offers more than just spice, with chicken, mushroom and herbal options to round out the menu. Order a youtiao (Chinese fried dough, a little like a doughnut) to enjoy as a crispy side dish, or dip it into your pot to soak up all the intense flavours of your broth.

342 William Street, Perth WA
0415 268 681

Dragon Hot Pot
This popular chain makes hotpot an easy solo meal for hotpot novices and lovers alike. Diners pick up a pot at the entrance and choose from an expansive range of ingredients at the front of the restaurant. The pot is weighed by the server, taken away and then returned with the diners’ choice of broth. Their signature malatang boasts over 24 Chinese herbs melding together to create a fragrant velvety broth that can be adjusted to suit each person’s preferred heat levels: “mild”, “hot”, “fire hot” or “dragon hot”. The Ma La Spicy Stir-Fry is a “dry” alternative that still delivers the heat and abundance of a broth-based hotpot, but the broth is substituted for a sauce. Payment here is determined by the weight of ingredients in each pot, so it’s easy to have a pot solo, or to load up and share between a group.

877 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park
(08) 6114 8890
235 William Street, Northbridge
(08) 6237 1021

Wu Ming Hot Pot
To step into Wu Ming is to step into a majestic hall dedicated to hotpot – complete with extravagantly carved partitions, gold-tinted signs and hardwood benches. That sense of pride extends to the food and service. Ingredients are presented with care – from neatly arranged meatballs on individual spoons, to meat layered carefully across trays and artfully arranged vegetables. The broths match the big personality of the decor, with a bold and spicy malatang featured together with a generous array of dipping sauces. There’s also a private room for larger groups.

1270 Albany Highway, Cannington
9458 8880