Sunday, May 16, 2010
Steamboats and my interpretation of them!
In my last post 'Fond Food Memories' I mentioned making a Cantonese Steamboat, also known as a 'Hotpot'. The picture above is of my first ever attempt at a Steamboat. Oh how I have evolved from here! I have done a few more dinners since this and the more I do, the better they are.
The Steamboat is a wok with prepared broth, which you use to 'cook' a selection of meats, poultry, seafood and vegetables. (You are only limited to your own imagination). The one thing I have found is that you might need to prepare your guests beforehand that they will be sitting down to a table of 'raw' ingredients which they will select and cook themselves - Once they get the hang of it, they will relax!
Steamboats are wonderfully social and interactive. They are more an experience than just a meal. If you can set aside the time for the preparation - for which there is quite a bit, I can assure you, it is so worth it! It is also a great excuse for me to dig out all my cute little bowls and dishes and decorate the table with my own little bit of quirky flair.
The central piece of equipment I use for my Steamboat is an electric wok. There are special pots that you can buy from Chinese grocers that are more authentic, but I find the wok works great because you have control over temperature. Start your broth and set the wok to boil about an hour before you plan to start eating. Once brought to a boil, bring the heat down to a simmer for 5 mins and then turn off. This will give the broth a head start and help the flavours to develop.
Now for the food! I like to use three different meats or proteins - chicken, beef and seafood (usually prawns or calamari.) I do different marinades for each. I choose a selection of Asian style greens and other vegetables (think typical of a stir fry) as well as tofu and noodles. Home made pork and water chestnut dumplings are also another little delicious addition I like to offer.
Each guest is given a small wire basket, which they fill with their chosen edibles and then place in the boiling broth of the wok to cook. The food is cooked quickly and takes on the flavours of the broth.
When your guests are about to arrive, set your table with your meats and vegetables, as well as any condiments like soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese pickles etc. (Keep everything in the fridge for as long as possible and use separate utensils (I use disposable chopsticks) for each different meat/seafood to avoid cross contamination - The last thing you want is for any of your guests to get food poisoning!
Bring your wok to an almost rolling boil, seat your guests and let the fun begin!
Towards the end of the meal, if you have any room left, take a big handful of noodles and bean shoots and pour a ladle of the deliciously flavoursome broth over them. The broth takes on all the yummy flavours of all of the things you have cooked in it throughout the meal. I look forward to this part, but usually after about 3 hours of eating and grazing, I can never fit it in!
So if you have an afternoon to spare, invite some people over, dust off your old electric wok and throw a Steamboat dinner. I guarantee you a wonderful and memorable experience!
Until next time...