Every season is steamboat season. It is not restricted to the time of the Chinese New Year or during the colder months. The steamboat concept is extremely simple: a pot containing simmering broth is kept on any portable burner on the table center. Plates of meat, vegetables and seafood surround the broth. The ingredients are already prepared and simply waiting to be dropped in broth. Steamboat is one of the more social of all dining formats, making the diners not only share a table, but also cooking food together in one shared pot.
It takes good planning and preparation to make a successful steamboat. You will need the appropriate equipment and also the ingredients. The latter must be prepared for this Chinese hotpot. You can choose different types of broth, along with the sauces which will be served with the items.
Your aim is to keep the ingredients simmering at the table, and thus you should have burner and pot to make it possible. The best is any portable bunsen burner as you can fine tune the heat. Do note that a pot is not included with the bunsen burner price and you have to separately buy this cooking utensil.
When it comes to the hotpot vessel, buy any one with a middle separator. This will enable you to accommodate two kinds of broths in a single pot, thus getting the maximum mileage out of any burner. The list of minor accessories include chopsticks, shallow bowls and small strainers. You should also have small bowls for the dipping sauces.
The ingredients you can put in to a hotpot can make an extremely long list. Variety is important in this regard and one must have a little of everything. Seafood and beef are a big hot in steamboat cooking and it is vital to balance the items with lighter ones like vegetables and greens. To give an example, in a hotpot serving four people, there must be four kinds of non-meat items like mushroom and tofu, two kinds of greens and four kinds of meat items. There could also be different varieties of seafood like shrimp, fish balls and salmon. You can also put in noodles like rice noodles, yam noodles or udon noodles.
Vegetables and greens
Any steamboat would remain incomplete without vegetables. They delightfully cancel the heavier ingredients and also add much needed flavor to any broth. The ideal vegetable is one which can retain the texture even after dunked in the broth.
Any meat is appropriate. Lamb and beef are made into paper thin slices. They will simply be dipped in the broth for a few seconds. It is advisable that you buy pre-cut thin meat.
You can cook an infinite variety of seafood in a hotpot. You can cook shellfish and a large variety of fishes like halibut, bass, monkfish and salmon.
This is an important ingredient. There are a number of options. The most common is to mix soy sauce with sesame oil and putting a smidgen of chili flakes or chili oil.
Remember, the steamboat is less about the food and more about the gathering. You should enjoy the event.