Hot pots, or steamboats as we call it here in Malaysia, is a popular way for big groups of friends and family to come together and celebrate special occasions.
It’s so popular that there are various types of steamboat styles all over the country, from yin-yong divided pots, shabu-shabu style pots, to porridge steamboats and steamboats with BBQ and grilling at the sides.
Most steamboat places either serve their food in sets or as a buffet with desserts such as fruits and ice cream. Others provide cooked side dishes to complement your grilling and boiling foods.
Despite the popularity of the steamboat, not many people know where this culinary tradition comes from. Most Chinese history sources however, state that the hot pot is Mongolian in origin. In the days of yore, Mongolian men lived mostly on horseback and when war came with the Chinese dynasties, they would ride out on their horses packing little or no cooking utensils so as to keep their load light.
When the time came to eat, they would use their shields, helmets or whatever metal vessel they had with them and overturn it over a fire. They would then fill the metal container with water and some seasoning, and boil some meat, for example beef, mutton and often horse meat.
Later on, the Great Wall of China was built to keep out these Mongolian invaders, but the allure of their simmering meat broths remained and spread throughout China and on to Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand.
Today, the hot pot is found everywhere in the world where there is a Chinese diaspora. In temperate countries. the hot pot is often eaten in winter.
Traditionally, the ingredients in a hot pot consists of green leafy vegetables, raw chicken, pork, beef or mutton, tofu, fish and seafood, eggs and noodles. There are always dipping sauces that come with the meal, and everyone has their preferences.
Every region in China has its own hot pot specialty, like Sze Chuan’s Congqing style broth that uses a lot of spicy peppercorns. The Manchurians have a hotpot style that uses pickled preserved vegetables and Cantonese people dip their boiled foods into raw egg. The same practice is done by the Japanese when they’re enjoying their Sukiyaki, a hotpot made mainly of beef.
Steamboat enthusiasts can check out the daily restaurant deals on steamboat places (and some steamboat pots which you an use to have a steamboat session at home) and places selling hotpots. There are also several promotional discounts for steamboat restaurants this New Year season.