Steamboat is an informal way of eating, with everybody cooking their own or one person cooking for everyone.
As requested by Marie and Angel, here's my steamboat recipe. I got my mom's birthday wrong so won't be doing steamboat this weekend, but I thought I should still give you the recipe. Will update post when I do steamboat.
Steamboat is a boat anywhere else but in South East Asia, where it refers to that Cantonese way of cooking at the table in which raw meat and veg are dipped into a pot of boiling stock and each person will then help himself to the cooked food. In China, 'firepot' is a term that includes steamboat as we know it, and all other ways of cooking at the table, including frying and stewing.
If and only if, I have to eat steamboat in restaurants, I always look out for fresh unprocessed meat. If a place serves mostly processed stuff like fishballs in different shapes, or weiners or surimi (imitation crabsticks), I get out quickly. No point in stuffing my body with all that rubbish. My father was a true Cantonese, always preferring steamboat on special occasions. His steamboat dinners are legendary--my hub still remembers that the first time he ate at my parents', the steamboat consisted of 30 to 40 kinds of ingredients. For steamboat, Dad would take the trouble to prepare fresh beef tripe (sweet, crunchy-chewy!) and pig stomach (also crunchy, but in a different way) which I've never eaten prepared that way anywhere else. He had strict rules to not mix all the different meat and veg together, but to cook each separately so that you can savour the flavor, sweetness and texture of each ingredient. Another thing he did differently was to marinade all the meat in soy sauce, pepper and cornflour.
The rainy weather recently is perfect for a steamboat dinner. Although there's quite a bit of preparation, it is a fun way to eat with friends and family, and it's inexpensive too. One way my friends and I used to tackle the problem of having to prepare so much was to get each person to do certain things. R, who doesn't shop, would bring the fruits, V would do the seafood, W would do her dip, CL would make fishballs and PL would do the beef. Y, if she comes, would get the drinks because she can't cook, or so she claims.
Here's a list of ingredients you can serve in your steamboat party. Just choose a balanced list in terms of flavors and texture and remember my cardinal rule: quality, quality, quality!
Put the bones from the chicken, the fish and whatever chicken feet and necks you have into a big pot. Fill with water, add 2 chinese carrots/radishes (lobak) which have been cut into small chunks and simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours. Strain away all the bones, keeping the radishes in the stock. You can add some salt and pepper. I don't because the dips are good enough.
1. beef fillet, or sirloin, sliced thinly & marinaded with light n dark soy sauce, cornflour & pepper.
2. corn-fed chicken, deboned, sliced, marinaded above (I now prefer on the bone; not so boring)
3. lamb, sliced thinly
4. fish (7-star garoupa is good), sliced thickly. Marinade is optional.
5. prawns, shelled but tails on, marinaded with salt n pepper
6. fresh squid, scored n sliced, marinaded as for prawns
7. dried squid, soaked in water + baking soda for two days, scored n sliced
8. salted jellyfish, washed well n soaked with frequent changes of water
9. pig kidneys, prepared by butcher, sliced & marinaded as for beef
10. pig liver (ask butcher for 'powder liver'), sliced
14.fishballs (NEVER buy; make your own)
16.fishmaw, soaked & blanched
17. stuffed tofuballs (half the balls so they'll cook faster)
18.yuefoo (recipe given in November 9th post)
20.quail eggs (boiled, shelled)
Note: Cut all meat (except fish & chicken) thinly but in large pieces. If cut too small, it'll tear and break up easily. For beef, no need to marinade if using imported beef. I prefer sirloin because even though it is not as tender as fillet, it is more flavorful and does not break up easily. Get fish that doesn't break up easily, and leave skin on.
1. Chinese cabbage
2. tung ho ('chrysanthemum leaves')
6. chinese celery
7. choysum (mustard greens)
1. tofu, in cubes
2. fresh shiitake or enoki mushrooms
3. foojook (beancurd sheets)
4. mifun, ho fun etc, soaked and blanched
I don't use yellow noodles because of the coloring and the weird taste they give to the soup.
1. Wendy Dip (named after Wendy, of course)
-fry minced garlic and small red onions in oil till soft. Put into bowl and add (here I've changed her recipe) Maggi soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
2. Chili Padi Dip
-mix together chopped chili padi, Maggi soy sauce and calamansi (kit jai) juice.
3. Oyster Sauce
-Get the Lee Kum Kee Brand, with a lady rowing a boat.
1. Cook each item separately, starting with the best meat or ingredients. After a few meat items, start on the veg and mushrooms because the umami from the meat would have made the soup very tasty by then.
2. Do not add noodles until everybody is done. This is because noodles fill you up (and you don't want to be full of carbo) and dilute the soup. The soup's the best at the end so leave some room for it!
3. Either use a big scoop and scoop out all the cooked food onto one or two serving plates so all can help themselves from there, or give each person his own scoop
4. Cook and eat slowly. My father always reminded us that steamboat is to be enjoyed, and in Pingnam, Guangxi where he was from, people eat steamboat from evening to dawn in the winter to keep warm.
5. Wear loose clothing. You'll know why.