Gather round this Lunar New Year eve for a spirited round of Yusheng tossing and steamboat feasting. Chinese hotpot or steamboat has been around for over a millennia and the beauty of this festive meal is that there’s no right or wrong way about enjoying it. Let your taste buds sizzle with a spicy Sichuan broth, or be comforted by a sweet savory shabu-shabu broth. Every steamboat tastes different and the best part? You can set aside your apron this holiday and let your guests do the cooking!
Here’s a list of fail-safe crowd pleasers for a fulfilling steamboat dinner:
It’s no wonder Asari clams are so popular in miso or Japanese Clam Soup (Asari No Sumashijiru) – just adding a handful of them to your broth allows these short neck clams to impart that oceanic sweetness to your soup base! Their white succulent flesh falls out of the shell easily when cooked and goes well with a spicy soy dipping sauce.
Unlike their fat shitake or brown button cousins, Enoki Mushrooms have a milder earthy flavor and are less chewy. When cooked right (about 3-4 minutes), they retain a crunchy texture that is pretty addictive. Cut off the roots, give them a wash and dunk them in a Sichuan mala hotpot or collagen chicken soup – they taste fantastic either way.
White radish or Daikon radish has a delicate, mild taste that soaks up the flavor of your broth well over time. This winter vegetable is simple to prep for any steamboat – just peel the skin and slice them thin so your guests can pick up the slices with chopsticks for easy cooking. They turn translucent when fully cooked (we recommend cooking them in a light chicken or vegetable broth), in about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thin your slices are. Root vegetables are very forgiving when it comes to holding up after long hours of cooking. Even if you fish them up towards the end of the meal, these soft radish slices are still great to nibble on!
No steamboat is complete without leafy greens. Napa or Chinese cabbage is a popular choice when it comes to any kind of hot pot. This super versatile vegetable can be stewed, steamed, boiled or fried and adds a light sweetness to your broth. The leafy parts take 3-5 minutes to cook, and the stems twice the time.
Chicken slices or chunks are a safe bet when it comes to steamboat. Instead of just emptying this pack of Aqina Pineapple Chicken Cubes into your broth, marinade your chicken (500g) with 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil for half an hour before dinner. Cook them in your chosen broth for about 8-10 minutes to enjoy tender, juicy chicken chunks!
Crunchy little pieces of Timur Black Fungus are a staple of many Chinese hot pot menus, and they add both contrasting textures and colors to your soup base. They are usually sold in a dried state, and require soaking in water for about 30 minutes before use. Once they have expanded, give them a gentle rub to remove any sand particles and strain them before serving it up as a steamboat ingredient.
There’s something comforting about slurping up light, silky pieces of Japanese Egg Taufu from your soup bowl. This wallet-friendly ingredient takes only 2-3 minutes to cook in your broth, and you should scoop them out early so they don’t disintegrate into your broth. Slice this Japanese Egg Taufu right through the middle and squeeze both ends gently to get your tofu out in one smooth move.
Glass noodles or Soh Hoon is made from water and vegetable starches like potato or mung bean starch. Everyone loves them in steamboat for their chewy texture and slurp-worthiness, especially after they have absorbed all that yummy broth flavors for 5 minutes! Soak them in warm water for 10-15 minutes to soften and rehydrate them before use.
There’s nothing easier to prep for steamboat than fish balls. Drain them, rinse them and they are ready to be cooked! Fish balls allow both young and finicky eaters to enjoy fish without the bones, and pair well with every soup base you might have. Wait till they bob to the surface – that’s when you know they are cooked through.