The Singapore Chinese dish “Steamboat” refers to several East Asian varieties of hot pot stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the centre of the dining table. While the steamboat is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table.
Typical steamboat dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. Vegetables, fish and meat should be fresh. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.
In many areas, hot pot meals are often eaten in the winter. At Singapore Chinese – the Holland Park restaurant in London – steamboat is an all-year-round affair.
The Chinese steamboat boasts a history of more than 1,000 years. Steamboat and hot pot cooking seems to have spread to northern China during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906). In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty, the steamboat became popular throughout most of China.
Frozen meat is sliced deli-thin to prepare it for steamboat cooking. Slicing frozen meat this way causes it to roll up during cooking, and it is often presented as such. Meats used include lamb, beef, chicken, duck, mutton, and others. The cooking pot is often sunk into the table and fuelled by propane, or alternatively, as at Singapore Chinese, is above the table and fuelled by a portable butane gas stove or hot coals.
Meat or vegetables are loaded individually into the hot cooking broth by chopsticks, and cooking time can take from 1 minute to 15, depending on the type of food. Other steamboat dishes include leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, and noodles. It can be eaten bland to very spicy, depending on how much spice has been put in the stew.
There are often disagreements between different styles of steamboat enthusiasts but never fear – at Singapore Chinese the chefs can arrange whatever you wish with enough advanced warning. Some like to place items into the hot pot at a relaxed, leisurely pace, enjoying the cooking process, while others prefer to put everything in at once and wait for the hotpot to return to a boil. Occasionally, due to evaporation, the boiled water needs to be refilled. Usually the stew is strong and zesty enough to not require adding more condiments.
Steamboat is just one of the specialties on order at Singapore Chinese restaurant. To book a table or see other dishes created by Singapore Chinese’s talented chefs please visit www.singaporechinese.co.uk or call the restaurant manager on London (0207) 727 6582.