Steamboat is one of the most enjoyable ways to have a nice long dinner with friends and family. All you need is a pot of good stock and any condiments you fancy. Seafood, meat, vegetables and noodles – the varieties are endless.
A satisfying meal cooked by your guests!
We Asians love a hot pot meal. The Swiss has their version called fondue, which is cheese based. Japanese calls it sukiyaki or shabu-shabu and us Malaysians call it steamboat. The Asian hot pot meal is mainly broth-based but some have evolved into a dual component which is a broth and a grill set.
There are loads of steamboat eateries all over the country. You are really spoiled for choice. I, on the other hand, prefer to steamboat at home. Part of the reason is the physical immobility that occurs after a long and enjoyable meal, it is hard to drive home.
But if you don't have a steamboat pot at home, know this - you do not need to have the actual steamboat set to enjoy it at home. If you have a wide shallow-ish pot, a portable stove and some ladles, you’re good to go!
The only thing you need to cook beforehand is a pot of broth which is either chicken, fish or tomyum based. Chicken broth is rather popular and easy to make.
Bones from 1 chicken
6 cloves of crushed garlic
Inch of ginger
1 bunch spring onions
1 chicken stock cube
Water enough to cover everything
Bring everything to a boil and turn down the heat. Let it simmer for half an hour to an hour. Skim off the grey foam (scum) on top with a ladle so the soup stays clear. The more bones you use, the tastier the broth will be. When it is ready, strain it into your designated steamboat pot and discard bones and veg.
For a basic set up, the ingredients are usually a choice of fresh seafood, thinly sliced chicken or beef, few types of vegetables, noodles, wontons and dipping sauces. You don’t need a great variety to have good steamboat, a few good things are enough. Generally more seafood will give you a sweeter broth at the end while meats will give a deeper flavour. It's the end broth that everyone wants to slurp right?
A big no-no for steamboat is using big pieces of protein that takes ages to cook such as bone-in chicken and meat or whole fish. Proteins need to be boneless and thinly sliced so it will cook in a minute.
Seafood platters like these are simple but great. Prawns will sweeten the broth, squid and tenggiri fish slices will cook in less than a minute, and fish balls are a must have. You can have crabs if you are in the mood to fiddle with shells. None of these are seasoned. The salt comes from the soy sauce. Dip as you eat.
For a more lavish seafood spread, you can have abalone, lobster (cut into small pieces), mussels, geoduck, octopus and clams to name a few.
Veggie platters are a must. Two types of noodles is enough. Quick cook veg like Chinese cabbage, spinach and pak choy, a choice of mushrooms and some chillies to bring the heat up. Hard veg like corn, daikon and carrots takes a while to cook so be sure to cut into thin slices and always to cook it slightly longer.
Other items that are great to add to the veg platter are tofu, watercress, beansprouts, Chinese lettuce, thin slices of pumpkin, sweet potato, white radish, snap peas and other leafy greens.
This is optional but you have pre-cooked items like fried wontons and crispy tofu skins just for a different texture.
Here is a recipe for homemade wontons. You can choose to fry it or cook it in the stock.
Here are the optimum cooking steps
1. Have the broth boiling, this will make the food cook faster.
2. Add in the first round of proteins, condiments and non-leafy veg and cover with a lid and wait patiently for 2 minutes until it starts to boil again. Do not overload it.
3. Turn the heat down and start scooping for the goodies! You can crack in an egg and let it poach in the hot soup.
4.Once everyone has taken the first bowl of food, now it is time to add in the leafy greens. It only takes 30 seconds to cook.
Don’t forget the sauces!
This dry chilli sambal is great to add some heat to the meal. And soy sauce is a must.
Keep cooking and reloading the pot in batches, top up the broth if you still have space in your tummies. Eat slowly and cool off with a cold beverage. The last few rounds are for noodles. Can you imagine how sweet and tasty the broth is now? Mmm... #tummygrowling
Guide to know if the food is cooked (especially proteins)
1. Pinkish chicken meat should turn white.
2. Red meat like lamb and beef should turn brown but you can eat it when it is slightly pink.
3. Prawns and crab shells will turn red
4. Clams are fully open, discard the unopened ones.
5. Fish meat should turn white.
6. Leafy greens turn bright green and other veg cooks really fast so you need not worry.
7. Fish balls, crab sticks and fish cakes and already cooked. Just heat them through.
This simple set up was initially for 4 people but 5 of us in the office ate this and we can’t even finish everything! This shows that you don’t need a huge array of ingredients to have a good steamboat.
The aftermath was one messy table and 5 really full colleagues.
So what to do with the leftover ingredients? Whip up a stir fry or cook some noodles for lunch the next day. Nothing is wasted!
What inspired us to do a steamboat was the cool weather we had recently. Hot soup and cool weather is a great combo. But don’t wait for the next rainy night, gather up your friends and family and have this delightful and fun dinner together.