A steamboat is a tradition that goes back to the origin of my family as we know it. Family friends glommed onto the idea from their friends, Pat and Sylvia Wong, a couple who fled (separately) from China, later met in California, and got married. Years ago, they showed my parents the basics of a good hot pot dinner, which we’ve taken to calling a steamboat.
Nearly every Asian culture has their own version of a communal cooking pot full of simmering broth and aromatics where you cook mouthfuls at a time, eating directly from the pot. (If this is starting to sound anything like fondue, my apologies, because it is soo much better). Ours is nowhere near the most culturally specific or authentic, but we’ve made it a family tradition and staple for special occasions. As a family, we love to celebrate around the dinner table, and a steamboat allows us to shamelessly stay seated for upwards of three hours. Each time we refill our baskets with a combination of seafood, meat, and veggies, we tell ourselves that this is actually the last time.
This is what we include in our basic family steamboat, which we’ve named “Steamboat Lite”:
- 2 lb of salmon, cut into strips
- 1.5 lb flank steak, cut into strips
- 1.5 lb peeled shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 large savoy cabbage for the hot pot
- a pot of cooked rice (short grain, long grain, your preference)
- my mom’s homemade teriyaki sauce (I’ll include the recipe below)
Depending on how casual or “all-out” we’re feeling that night, we might also include scallops, calamari, and clams. Back when there were little kids in the house, my parents would even cut up chunks of chicken for us to cook. Now we can hardly imagine waiting 10 minutes for so little reward! Thank God we’re all seafood lovers because it cooks in seconds.
I managed to sneak some new additions onto the list of usual suspects this time around. They were well received by the Stringer Steamboat panel and could potentially become permanent sides!
- toasted sesame seaweed salad
- quick cucumber pickle made with rice wine vinegar, shallots, and red chilies
I love a cool, crunchy condiment on the side of a meal like this. Palate-cleansing bites of these two salads made it more enticing to go back in for another rich, buttery bite of salmon.
Throughout the meal, we sit around one little propane-burning hot pot with everything mostly within our reach. We load up our baskets with whatever we want and let it cook in the simmering water, which we have chock full of cabbage. Everyone has their own method. My mom and brother front load the cooking process so they always have something in the water, a few cooked bites “marinating” in their teriyaki sauce, and some ready to eat in their bowl. I’m a less efficient steamboat participant, but an appreciative one all the same.
This is a great entertaining meal (for people you want at the table for an extended period of time) or simply a wonderful, healthy weeknight meal if you’re feeling stuck in a rut. It’s so easy and fun to make it your own with different condiments, sauces, and base broths. Our friends, the Wongs, serve a chili sauce with a raw egg in it as a dipping sauce. I don’t think my parents have considered bringing that back since we’ve all grown up, but I think next steamboat, we’ll give it a try!
And, as promised, here’s my Mom’s Homemade Teriyaki Sauce:
- 1 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 c. sake
- 4-6 T. sugar
- 1-2 T. ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
Simply combine all ingredients. Enjoy!