Monday, 20 October 2008


Mum and I came back from Penang determined to have a steamboat before the winter was out. Yet here we were, mid-October and still no steamboat in sight. So last night we headed up to my parents' house, where we partook in one of my favourite methods of food preparation, the steamboat.

steamboat vegetables (and noodles)

Steamboat is a great way to have friends around for dinner, I like to refer to it as, what we have instead of barbeque. The steamboat sits in the middle of the table, either powered by electricity or more traditional means (in my parents' case, this means by heat beads), and has a chimney protruding from the centre of its bowl. Stock is poured into the bowl of the steamboat, and delicious things are dropped in to sort of steam but mostly boil in the middle of the table as the everyone surrounds the table, chatting. We serve with copper baskets and wooden chopsticks, with a ladle or two for the delicious broth which becomes more and more delicious as each course passes. The stock left by the end of the meal is delicious, having steeped in ten or twenty different flavours for the last two hours, it is my favourite.

Last night we had two boats going, one for meat and not meat with chicken stock, and one for not meat with vegie stock. This worked pretty well, though we almost had a few careless moments with appropriate (not contaminated) implements.

We had five courses in the vegie boat: tofu, chinese cabbage and choi sum (with rice noodles); fake fishballs with carrot and chinese cabbage (and maggi noodles); cauliflower, broccoli and carrot (with kuay teow noodles); giant button mushrooms with golden mushrooms; and snow peas, chinese cabbage and maggi noodles.

The emphasis is on simple ingredients, and the mix of those flavours - no marinating beforehand, no flavouring with spices before cooking. Some light soy sits on the table, and we pour it into the tiny sauce bowls in front of us. The chillis, fried shallots, and spring onion gets passed around the table for flavouring, but we rely on the flavour of the broth and the flavour of the ingredients to combine and make tasty course after tasty course.

It's sometimes frustrating that I still don't have a steamboat of my own, but I'll get one someday, and it will be awesome. For now, I promise my mum I'll help her prepare the vegies, and dance around her kitchen, like I have been for years. And it's great.


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