Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Steamboat aka "juan lor" is perfect for winter in July

Whenever steamboat is mentioned, the first thing that comes into the minds of most Singaporeans is the reunion dinner with loved ones on Chinese New Year's Eve. It is a traditional thing for many of us to do, Besides, it has passed through many generations and been enjoyed along the way under very different climatic condition. Most likely our forebears enjoyed their steamboat in natural wintry condition whereas it was only until recently, that air conditioning relieves us from this sweat-drenching traditional practice in tropical Singapore. Although Sydney has a mild winter as compared with our compatriots living in the Scandinavian countries, it can still be freezing cold to some of our new arrivals from home. But there is no better way to beat the chill than around a table, with friends and family, tucking into the best winter has to offer. The best thing you can say about the winter season, is that it is good eating weather especially for steamboat or hotpots dinner. I can still remember the steamboat is always served in a 'juan lor', a charcoal fired hot pot made of brass, nickel or silver. This cooking vessel resembles a brass incense burner on a cone shaped base with a chimney at the centre.Today in many modern households, the traditional charcoal-heated steamboat or hot pot is made of aluminum or stainless steel, and uses a gas or electric source of heat. Not much cooking is involved in this scrumptious dish. Simply placed the steamboat in the centre of the dining table. While the stock is gently boiling, placed the meat, seafood and vegetable in the pot and cooked at the table. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce of chopped chilli and garlic in a mixture of soya sauce and malt vinegar. One of the most flavourful vegetables and closely associated with this dish is the chrysanthemum greens aka tong hao in Chinese (茼蒿), shungiku (春菊) or kikuna (菊菜) in Japanese.

5oog Chinese Cabbage cut into 50mm strips
500g Chrysanthemum Greens (tong hao in Chinese (茼蒿), shungiku (春菊) or kikuna (菊菜) in Japanese)
500g prawns shelled, deveined
200g squid, cleaned and sliced
250g firm tofu cut into 25mm cubes
150g oyster mushroom or shitake mushroom
500g lean beef tenderloin or chicken thigh fillet
250g fish balls
3 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste.
Shortly before serving, add the stock in the steamboat and bring it to a boil. Add half of the vegetables except the Chrysanthemum greens (tong hao) since it easily loses its structure when overcooked. Place half the chicken or meat and also add the fish balls except the squids and prawns. With a large spoon, gently stir the boiling stock. Boil gently for 3 minutes before adding the squids and prawns and cook until the prawns and squid changes its colour. Add the chrysanthemum greens cover and cook for 30 seconds or until they turn bright green. Serve with dipping sauce of vinegar with soya and chili sauce.


  1. Yummy~~ charcoal is still the best, but where in Sydney can we find those charcoal like those in Singapore? The charcoal from Woolies/Coles seems to be coated by some chemical for faster combustion.

  2. I used to make my own charcoal when I was in Papua New Guinea. I made them from the hardwood off-cuts from the sawmill. I agree with you that the processed briquettes cannot be compared to the chemical-free charcoal.

  3. i use rice cooker for steamboat.. hehe

  4. Steamboat, an absolutely heart-warming meal during winter. We just had one last weekend.

  5. Winter in July? Wow, how I wish I was there, if not for the steamboat then for the weather. As you know, July here is hot and humid, with temperatures rising above 35 deg C in the day.