Sunday, 18 December 2011

Pre Christmas Feast with a twist

One more week to Christmas day but the it seemed the celebrations started late November. My office is piled high with chocolates and my colleagues are having them as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thankfully I am not a fan of roses! There are the countless Christmas parties, drink parties and not to mention the horrific repetition of Christmas songs on the radio. Forgive me if I sound like Mr Scrooge. I love Christmas. I never had Christmas like the ones here until 10 years ago and I still love it. I can't wait for the actual day, turkey in the oven, flowing champagne, log fires, long leisurely walks, mulled wine in the local pub then, of course there are the presents. Sigh... only 1 more week to go....

But then again, there are always pre Christmas feasts. Apart from the office parties, what I love is being able to catch up with close friends and treating them to a lovely dinner to celebrate our friendships and exchange presents. This year, we had our friends over and I was wracking my head as to what to cook for them. Turkey was out of the question. My genius of a husband suggested 'Steamboat' or Hoptpot or the chinese name Fo Wo literally translates as Fire Pot. In Japan it is also called shabu shabu. 

It is the way the food is cooked in a pot with a light broth and it is placed in the middle of the table. There are a variety of raw food available and each person is responsible of cooking and finding their food. You will also have a variety of sauces to dip your food in. Sounds fun, yes it is! It is an incredible sociable way to eat. In Malaysia where I came from and in a lot of Asian countries, steamboat is very popular. We have air conditioned restaurant to street vendors selling a variety of these type of cooking. In a steamboat restaurant, we pay per person and you can choose the type of stock you want. They have clear chicken broth to spicy tom yum. Then it is a buffet and you help yourself to the raw food. Beware as you will have to finish the food you take or else they are charge by weight. 

The most creative of 'steamboat' I have been to was in Malacca and we went there with my parents. We queued for an hour because the restaurant was so popular. Here they named it Satay Celup literally translated as Satay dip. I am sure most of you are familiar with the term satay and had tried it. Skewers of meat dipped in peanut sauce. Well in this restaurant, the raw food are cooked in a satay sauce. Instead of a light broth in the middle of the table we were given a pot of hot thick bubbly satay sauce. We then were shown the array of raw ingredients from king prawns to fillet of lamb and beef. I was dubious as I thought the satay sauce would be sickly but it was absolutely and utterly delicious and very very moreish. It is light and yet full of flavour. 

Satay Celup
My brother with a big prawn
Array of raw ingredients

I wasn't that adventurous as I don't think I can achieve the consistency of the satay sauce of that restaurant so I prepared the normal steamboat my mum used to prepare at home. Something homemade and full of love. I don't do this every often as it involves a lot of ingredients and preparation. We had chicken, sole, salmon, cod, pork, frog's legs, beef, 2 types of tofu and vegetables. We took about 2 - 3 hours of eating. Finally, as the broth becomes an intense soup, we finished it with some egg noodles and nestled in between are a couple of poached Burford Browns. The perfect ending to a perfect steamboat!

My steamboat

If you are interested in making one, contact me and I will teach you. 

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