Three of us, 1 growling steam boat, a table full of ingredients and 2 hour long dinner – That is how I would describe my last Tuesday evening – dinner with friends.
Well, my Singaporean colleague took us to a street in the Bugis area that is famous for its steamboats or hot pots. For the uninitiated to the South East Asian/ Chinese cuisine, steamboat is a pan with boiling broth, placed on a hot plate/ induction heater over the dinner table. People then cook the raw ingredients in the broth and take it out, dip them in a sauce and eat. Steamboats supposedly originated in Mongolia and spread to other parts of Asia. In modern days, families organize steam boat dinners during Chinese New Year or such special occasions.
I think, the concept of eating your meal cooked in the same broth tends to make the family bond stronger and that must have been one of the reasons why steamboats were so popular. Also, it requires less time to cook and eat, given that you cook and eat simultaneously. Another reason might be that it’s good to have steamboat meals in the winter season and in colder climes as it provides warmth not only to the body but also the chatter on the dinner table would warm up your soul.
Although I had my steamboat in a restaurant, the ‘Do it Yourself’ themed dinner was memorable!
The restaurant was quite full given the fact that it was a weekday. Since it’s very popular, it wasn’t very surprising. If you wish to visit the place on the weekends, you may have to book in advance or wait for longer time to get a table.
We quickly grabbed a table and gave our full attention to choosing the ingredients we wanted to cook and eat that evening! Prawns, beef, pork, eggs, lettuce, radish, quail eggs, glass noodles, dumplings, chicken and many other items were ticked on the buffet list presented to us by the Chinese waitress.
After a while the hot plate (at the center of the table) was switched on and the pot with two varieties of stock – one spicy (red in color) and the other non-spicy (white) was placed on the hot plate. My Singaporean Chinese friend directed us towards the sauces – there was a variety of it to choose from and I had the full liberty to mix different ingredients to make my own unique sauce – the one that I loved was a mix of – loads of raw garlic, coriander, spring onions, lots of chili sauce (this is a different chili sauce that is dark red in color) and vinegar! Wow it was hot and spicy.
We dipped our first batch of ingredients into the boiling broth. Then we took it out, dipped it in our respective self-prepared sauces and relished every morsel. The succulent meat with the dripping broth along with the special sauces made the meat delicious. So were the dumplings, the prawns, etc. Even the otherwise pungent radish tasted great. We went doing the same 4 steps again and again for the rest of the evening – dip, cook, dip again (in sauce) and eat – till the time there was absolutely no room in our stomach!
We left satiated after a 2 hour long dinner and I absolutely loved every bit of it and the taste still lingers on.
So, next time you are in the mood for something spicy, you know where to head for. Try to visit the place on a weekday, to avoid the weekend rush. It’s better to choose a steamboat buffet – because you get to eat more variety. Take it easy, sit, eat and relax and enjoy the meal. If you are in a hurry, it’s not the place for you. Maybe some other day.
For SGD 20 we had our stomach and souls nourished!