Image from Yum of ChinaSteamboat, the Chinese rendition of fondue, is an extremely popular choice for reunion dinner during the Chinese New Year period. Also known as hot pot (火锅), it is an easy to cook meal where ingredients are tossed in a large pot of carefully prepared flavorful broth. It is also said that the round steamboat pot, which symbolizes “reunion” (团圆), has the power to enhance friendship and unite family members.
If you wish to save money and effort of queuing for hours, just to dine at an overpriced steamboat restaurant, you can consider organizing a simple steamboat reunion dinner at the comfort of your own home. In addition, it is a much healthier option as you have complete control over the type of ingredients that go into your hot pot. Nevertheless, the first step to organizing the steamboat reunion dinner would be purchasing the right steamboat appliance. Hence, here is a simple guide to help you get started on the ultimate communal dining experience!
#1. Electrical Or Gas?
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Electrical steamboats come either as standalone or as part of the induction cooker, while others come bundled together with a portable gas stove which runs on compatible gas canister. The advantage of getting a steamboat that runs on electricity is that the cooking is more consistent and they are the easiest to clean up. However, it is not portable since you need to ensure that there is an electrical plug. Whilst, the main advantage of having a portable gas stove is that it can be used anywhere and you have more precise temperature control. However, there are still concerns of safety after gas explosions at the steamboat restaurants were reported. Furthermore, you need to replace the gas canister every few hot-pot sessions and they are not cheap.
Tip: Invest in an electrical extension cord to make an electrical steamboat more portable. Tape the cord on the floor with masking tape to prevent people from tripping over it.
#2. Stainless or non-stick?
Image from Scienceabc
The steamboats come in mainly two types of finishing; stainless steel, which is corrosion resistant, and non-stick coating, that makes the hot pot much easier to clean. Furthermore, with a non-stick steamboat, you can also sauté the ingredients before adding the broth and this additional step will add more flavor to your meal. However, you should avoid using metal utensils with a nonstick steamboat as they will scratch and nick the non-stick coating.
Tip: Make sure that the non-stick coating used in the steamboat is either made without Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), or PFOA free. Exposure to PFOA can have harmful effects in our body. Always use wooden spoons or silicone-coated perforated and solid ladles together with non-stick steamboats. If you are getting an induction steamboat, make sure that your hot pot is made of stainless steel!
#3. Single or Dual flavor?
Image from Serious eats
Spicy? Non-spicy? Communal dining can also be a tricky affair when your guests have different soup base preference. Hence, most steamboats are designed with an internal divider, or a separator, so that you can accommodate two different flavors at the same time! In this way, you can get the most broth mileage out of one hot pot!
Tip: Choose a bigger capacity steamboat (at least 6 liters) if you decide to opt for a dual flavor hot pot. In this way, you do not have to refill the broth so frequently during the steamboat session.
#4. Hot Pot or Grill?
Image from Lazada.sg
Aside from steamboat, grilling is also another popular communal dining experience. Hence, steamboat-grills, which allow you to hotpot-cum-BBQ at the same time, have risen in tremendous popularity in recent years. In additional, they are also available in a wide variety of designs and sizes!
Tip: Look for steamboat-grill that comes with separate controls for the pot and grill, so that you have individual control over the hot pot and BBQ. Choose the steamboat design that comes with a reasonable grill capacity, and is also designed around the steamboat. In this way, it is easier for everyone to reach for both the hot pot and BBQ, no matter where they are seated.
Other features to watch out for!
#5. Easy maintenanceMake sure that the hot pot and the grill are removable for easy washing.
#6. Wide and Shallow DesignChoose for a hot pot which wide and shallow, so that a wider group of people can reach for the steamboat. The shallow depth allows that food to be visible and not lost in the sea of ingredients and broth. Furthermore, the ingredients will be cooked much faster in a shallow hot pot.
#7. Heat Resistant HandlesThe handles on the sides of the hot pot or grill must be made of heat resistant material, so that it is easy for you to lift it off the base.
#8. Tempered Glass LidThe lid should be clear and made with tempered glass, with a heat resistant handle. In this way, you can monitor the broth easily, without having to take the lid off.
Steamboat Hack;use an electric rice cooker as a hot pot!
If you are still undecided on which steamboat to purchase, or simply do not have time to shop for one, fret not! You can actually use your electric rice cooker, with its lid off, as a makeshift hot pot for your family!
Image from Hotpotambassador
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