Steamboat! Steamboat! Steamboat! What comes to mind? Some of you may be thinking of the era of steamboats, steampackets or even the romantic Paddle Steamers that use to rule the waters like the Grand Ol’ Mississipi. Hah! For most Asians it means “yummy, yummy for my tummy!”
Steamboat quite simply is the form of meal where people gather round a pot of simmering broth and cook various ingredients. These ingredients include meats, seafood, tofu, vegetables, eggs and noodles. The broth used can be a very plain chicken broth or it could be spicy as in a tom yam based broth. More recently, a thin clear broth with Chinese medicinal herbs has become quite popular. The medicinal herbs lend a sweet and bitter flavor to the broth as well as an excuse that eating more is good for one’s health.
Apart from the appeasement of the tastebuds, the steamboat is a great social event. People have plenty of time and opportunity to interact, share and laugh as they play at being chef, put the ingredients into the communal pot, wait for the food to cook and then “fish” for their food. You often do not get back what you put in but get somebody else’s contribution. It all adds to the fun.
This is one of my favorite types of meals and so I am particular that it is done properly. For maximum enjoyment, the ingredients should be cooked and eaten in several stages.Throughout the meal, a dipping sauce of chilli or soya sauce is used. Stage 1: Crabs are added to sweeten the broth. At the same time, various fast cooking seafood and tofu are also added. The broth allowed to boil and ingredients cooked. The heat is then lowered and the first round of eating can begin. Stage 2: When the cooked ingredients have been removed or eaten, it is now time to add thin chicken and beef slices together with more of stage 1 ingredients. Cook and eat. Stage 3: By this time, the broth will be incredibly rich from all the ingredients before, now add vegetables, noodles and eggs. This will create a nice noodle soup to finish the meal.
Believe me, the last few drops of broth will be just heavenly being infused with the flavors of all the ingredients used. Even a big eater like myself will be totally sated.
If you are in Southeast Asia, consider trying this. Variations of this can also be found in China and Korea. It is also very appropriate for cold, wet rainy days.