Hotpot, also known as steamboat, is a Chinese cooking method where food is lowered into a large pot to cook.
While the flavored broth is kept simmering in the hotpot, raw ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked in a manner similar to fondue and the cooked food being subsequently taken out with a net or chopsticks. Steamboat may be prepared and eaten either at home or in a restaurant. Often steamboats are enjoyed together with rice or noodles. Chinese usually use chopsticks to pick up the cooked food from the steam baot and dip it into sauces for additional flavoring.
Ingredients in a hotpot
Typical ingredients include shabu-shabu meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, vermicelli, sliced potatoes, egg dumplings, tofu, fish balls and seafood. Raw ingredients are usually sliced into thin sections that will cook quickly in the simmering broth. Most raw ingredients are cooked in a hot pot. Different ingredients will take varying amount of time to be fully cooked while immersed in the soup. Once they are cooked, they can then be removed from the hotpot to be eaten safely.
At the end of the meal, the broth has assimilated the umami flavours from the added ingredients, and may be served to the diners after turning off the cooking heat source.
Bonding over steamboat
Hot pot meals can help to build friendship and serve as a bonding session for family members or colleagues as several people sit around a pot, talking and eating. Traditionally, hotpot is served during the eve of the Lunar New Year and allows for families to catch-up and enjoy a meal together. Hot pot is especially popular in winter and cold places of China. But that is not to say that Singapore, being a sunny country does not have much steamboat or hotpot fans. In fact, hotpot is pretty popular in Singapore as well.
Popularity of hotpot
Due to the immense popularity and the unique way of eating, steamboat or otherwise known as hotpot, has already become the major attraction of the tourism industry in China. The growing popularity of hot pot not only brings huge economic profits to related industries and itself but also leads to strong competition. As such, more and more steamboat restaurants are striving to improve their service quality and dining environment to attract consumers.
In Singapore, there are many hot pot restaurants available with varying levels of service. One of the more expensive ones are like Hai Di Lao where they are known for top notch service, bringing props to celebrate your birthdays or offering hot towels to customers to warm their face, free phone covers for your phone, phone cloth to sanitise your phone and rubber bands for you to tie up your hair. They really go the extra mile to ensure you are well taken care of at your table.
However if you are more keen on the pricing of the steamboat, then one of the more affordable ones is Shi Li Fang. Follow lifestyle blogger SimplyPeiqi as she covers a review on Shi Li Fang. It has 14 outlets in Singapore. Currently, they have a promotion where you pay SGD $9.90 for a set meal, very value for money.
The range of ingredients are also very wide, and due to covid, they do not allow you to move around to get your food, rather, they will serve you the food to minimise contact. Nonetheless, the food is really good and worth a visit.