Everyone in Singapore is familiar with steamboat. More commonly called “Hot Pot” in other South-East Asian countries, eating “steamboat” refers to cooking meat slices, vegetables, fishballs, prawn, mushrooms, dumplings and other fresh ingredients in a boiling pot of stock placed in the center of the table.
Steamboat is a social meal and can often take up to 2-3 hours start to finish! If eating out, most steamboat restaurants offer “all-you-can-eat” menus, excellent for growing boys and bottomless pits. I meant that in a good way! I remember an experience in Hong Kong (they call it “打邊爐” instead of “火鍋”) where my friends and I ate from 6.30pm to 11pm. A group of college boys from the next table were there before us and were still going strong when we left. They probably continued eating til midnight.
If eating at home, steamboat is almost always a “festival” or “celebration” dish. It is a common choice for reunion dinners on Chinese New Year’s eve, and in my household, it also makes an appearance whenever there is something to celebrate. Today, we’re “celebrating” Jason’s annual leave. He’s going to be out-of-office for 32 days and that to him, is a major, major cause for celebration.
The most important item for steamboat, apart from the pot, is stock. Nowadays, there are so many choices in the market that consumers are spoilt for choice. I’ve used packet stock like pork bone, scallop, seafood, vegetarian, etc, and also chicken, fish and tom yum stock cubes for my soup stock. I sometimes also boil my own vegetable stock using cabbage, corn, carrots, onions and yellow beans. Today, I used Woh Hup Concentrated Chicken Stock.
The packaging says to use 1 teaspoon to 180ml water. My steamboat pot can hold 2 litres of water and I only used 2 tablespoons. The stock is concentrated enough to flavour your soups without the need to use excessive amounts. With the amount of stock still left in the bottle, my gauge is that 1 bottle is enough for 4 steamboat sessions. At $3.50 per bottle from NTUC, this is more “budget” for me than packet stock, which is $1.90 per use. Price-wise: Approved!
The concentrated stock was rich and flavourful without the usual taste of “chicken seasoning” , you know, when you use powdered stock? With 50% less salt than regular stock, it also carries the “healthier choice” logo and that is a big decision-making factor for me when buying processed food items.
What ingredients can you see? My secret ingredient for cooking stock: honey dates. The double-boiled soups that you have outside? Cooks add honey dates to them too, for that rich, savoury flavour that simply cannot be achieved otherwise. I also like to add corn, carrots and cabbage for extra sweetness.
If you have a favourite way to prepare steamboat stock, leave me a comment and tell me how you do it!