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Chongqing, hot pot and Pipa Yuan, the world’s largest restaurant that occupies half a hill and can serve up to 5,800 people at a time

3 min read

In Chongqing, a heavily industrialized city in the in south-central part of China, located at the estuary of Jialing River where it joins the Yangtze River, hot pot is the staple dish of the city.
There hot pot restaurants are everywhere.
But what exactly is hot pot and why do the people are like it so much?
It’s a dish of the native, and there are various tales about the origin of the Chongqing Hot pot, one of them widely accepted.
In the beginning of the 19th century, at Chongqing Chaotianmen Wharf, one of the busiest places at that time, the boatmen and porters in winters would take the leftover meat from the butcher and boil them in a spicy brew of chilies and numbing Sichuan peppercorns, afterward dipping the cooked food in condiments, creating a delicious dish that quickly spread throughout the city.
In that times, Chongqing’s popular “stick-stick men” would carry the broth and ingredients on a bamboo stick throughout the city, selling it to any passerby that wanted a meal. In those times, the hot pot would be suspended on the bamboo stick over an open fire, right on the street.
Everything edible can be cooked in hot pot!

Not by chance, Chongqing is also home to the world’s largest hot pot restaurant, a massive facilities that covers an entire hillside, features nearly 900 tables and can seat around 5,800 people at a time.
Located in the Nan’an district, on the outskirts of the city, Pipa Yuan (枇杷园) is a giant eatery terraced on a large hill, that covers an area of 3,300 square meters.
Most diners require directions to locate their reserved table among the hundreds of tables available and, even if it had long been praised as the largest hot pot restaurant in the world, only last year Guinness Records made the title official.
Because of the sheer size of Pipa Yuan, and the fact that it is located on a steep hillside, diners can take up to 30 minutes from the parking lot at the bottom of the hill to one of the 888 tables currently available at the restaurant.
However, that doesn’t seem to affect its popularity and, despite the massive capacity of the restaurant finding a table without a reservation, especially during spring and summer, is almost impossible.
In fact, people from all over China come to experience the world’s largest hot pot restaurant in person, and it is said that one a busy day Pipa Yuan serves more people than the inhabitants of a small county.
As you can imagine, cooking several tonnes of food every day and serving it to thousands of patrons requires a massive staff and Pipaa Yuan reportedly employs hundreds of waiters, tens of cooks, and dozens of kitchen staff, as well as over 25 cashiers.

Interestingly, the restaurant is just as busy at night as in the daytime because of all the colorful light fixtures that bring the entire hillside to life.
And, about the food, according to online reviews, it’s surprisingly good for such a large restaurant. Serving times can be a bit long, especially at the busiest hours of the day, but the fresh ingredients, the mild spices, and the view from the hill apparently make up for the wait.

Images from web – Google Research

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