Saturday, January 21, 2012

Steamboat - a Chinese new year eve's tradition

This Sunday, Jan 22nd marks Chinese New Year eve in the Lunar calendar. For chinese families we gather back home on this day to feast. It is called the Reunion dinner, which represents drawing family members back home once a year from near and far - in order to catch up and usher the new year together.

We prepare a steamboat, also known as a hotpot. A hotpot has different versions in Korean and Japanese culture - with use of different ingredients. For the Chinese, common foods are fish (representing an abundant year), lettuce (representing vigorous), shallot (representing wisdom), celery (representing diligence), chicken and duck. However, each family can choose their favourite ingredients and there is no hard and fast rule on what to put into the hotpot.

For someone new to preparing a steamboat, I highly encourage your attempts as it is a healthy way in consuming food which uses minimal oil. First, you need an electrical/gas powered steamboat pot. I couldn't find it easily in Australia, there are plenty available in Asian countries at the appliances store.
Usually you can choose the pot, it either comes with one or two sections. If you had a choice, I recommend choosing the pot with 2 sections as you can create 2 types of soup.

Making the soup stock: In order to make it as healthy as possible - either make a chicken/pork/beef stock from scratch by boiling the meat in a pot, or purchase premade stock cubes at the supermarket. One thing to keep in mind is to read the ingredients to make sure there is no msg in the stock cubes. As msg (monosodium glutamate) is abundant in many asian sauces, stock cubes and asian style meat balls to enhance the flavour - it has to be avoided to provide a healthy version of steamboat.

If you like spicy soups, purchase a tom yam soup premade base at an asian store for your steamboat.
Now for the ingredients for a Healthy Steamboat:

Less Meat and Eggs: Choose lean meat that is preferably free range - chicken, pork, beef slices. Choose less fishballs and asian style meat balls as some of them have msg. Chicken eggs (raw, to be placed into the pot) and quail eggs (hardboiled and peeled).

Less Carbs: Rice vermicelli (raw, to be put into soup), Sweet potato noodles (raw, to be put into soup), cooked brown/white rice. 

More Seafood: Choose scallops, prawns, sliced fish (of sustainable origin, not overfished). Scallops and prawns help in making the soup sweet.

More Vegetables: Spinach, Lettuce, Mushrooms (enoki and shiitake), silken tofu (cut into cubes)

You will be amazed on how full you will be just eating these ingredients. Also refrain from using plastic chopsticks and utensils as plastics contain xenoestrogens that are transferred to hot food. To start, begin with adding the meat, allow it to cook while adding other ingredients as you go.


  1. Congratulations Sylvia / Si Jia Ong! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting information.
    White Lotus Clinic

  2. LOVE a good steamboat :) I grew up in Papua New Guinea to Australian parents who had a fascination with other cultured and eating. We had a steam boat just like the one in your photo and I still use it today 40 years later :)