A steamboat dinner is a dinner where diners sit around a table and food is cooked in a pot of flavoured broth. The broth can be a simple chicken stock, or as in this particular meal, my friend prepared a herbal stock. It is a Chinese cooking method, and is also referred to as hot pot dinner.
When all is ready to sit down to dinner, the stock is heated up and food is placed in the pot to cook. The kind of food varies – depending on the diners’ tastes and preferences. A good host will make sure that the food he prepares appeal to his guests.
Otherwise, anything is possible – thinly slice meat, (the reason is obvious – so that they are cooked quickly), prawns, chickens, fish, vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings …. the list goes on.
One thing to note in a hot pot dinner is the sequence of food to be cooked. Raw food goes into the pot first so that they are properly cooked. Followed by the food that are already semi cooked. Vegetables do not take long to be cook, so they and the food that are already cooked and needs warming up only go in last. The sequence is important. Otherwise you will end up with uncooked or overcooked food.
When all the food is in, you cover the pot and wait for a couple of minutes for the food to cook. As you wait for the food to be cooked, you can talk about how you can save the world. Or you can gossip about your mutual friends. Or you can talk about recipes, and exchange recipes. The hot pot dinner is a good way to socialize over dinner.
In days gone by, clay stoves were used, and coals were used to keep the fire in the stove going. The fire is a bit more difficult to control. You also need to have hot coals on standby to replace the ones in the hotpot when they died. It was much more troublesome then.
It is now much easier with electric hot pots, or induction cookers. You just plug in, switch it on, and wait for the hot pot to heat up. There is a fire control knob for you to control the fire. When the food is cook, you just turn down the heat, and when you add new stuff into the hot pot to be cooked, you just turn up the heat. There will be many rounds of this before the food is finished, or until all have eaten their fill.
This was what we had for our steamboat dinner on Saturday.
From the top row on the to the right - various types of mushrooms, white cabbage, Garland chrysanthemum, know to the locals as 'Tang O', some kailan - as an experiment, but these didn't work out too well. Now we know why people don't use kailan for steamboat dinner. They take a longer time to cook, and somehow their taste doesn't blend in with the rest of the food.
In the middle row are scallops, beancurd, and vegetables with stuffings, fillet of fish, fish balls (fish meat mixed with a little flour and spices shaped into a ball), and prawns.
And that's thinly sliced beef on the last row. The grapes were for after dinner.
There was also fragrant chicken rice.
It was a lovely dinner. Plenty of food, plenty of beer, and good friends for company. Dinner started at 7 pm and it was 2 am when we left. An absolutely enjoyable evening.
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