Your Ultimate List of Steamboat Ingredients
Asian families often gather around a pot of bubbling broth and various steamboat ingredients to celebrate the Chinese New Year. For many, the simmering steamboat represents more than just good food. It’s the tradition to strengthen family bonding and sharing happiness. The literal translation of “reunion” in Mandarin is “group round” and the classic Chinese hotpot, fondly known as steamboat in this region, also embodies the sense of community and family spirit.
What else can possibly show (or test) your harmony better than sharing your food? No matter where they reside during the rest of the year, Chinese families and friends will make every effort to gather and have their reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
And it’s not just the Chinese who adore this soupy cuisine – the Japanese have their Shabu Shabu, the Koreans have their Jeongol, the Thais have their Suki and the Cambodians, Ya-Hon. Regardless, they all share the same premise – the raw steamboat ingredients are dipped or boiled in a stock, then eaten when ready. This social food outing is beloved as diners bond while waiting for their food.
The best thing about the humble steamboat is not just the experience, but also the fact that you are almost guaranteed a delicious meal – no cooking experience needed! The formula is simple: fresh steamboat ingredients are generously placed around a donut-shaped pot before being cooked at the table.
The meal usually begins as a free-for-all, with all sorts of items chosen to one’s liking being dipped into the boiling soup and cooked throughout the course of the meal. Meat, seafood, vegetables are often part of the selection, which gradually imparts their flavours to the stock. This hearty broth can be sipped mid-meal, or used at the end to cook up some rice and noodles for a carby finish. Items that take longer time to be cooked are often put in first. However, there’s no sequence in eating steamboat and that’s the beauty of it – you add in what you want, when you want to eat them!
The Steamboat Equipment Checklist
Preparing this soupy buffet can be tricky as you need to ensure that everything’s in place before it starts. Missing an item might result in awkward straining, double-dipping or melted equipment. Communal dining may not be for everyone so it’s always good to be on the safe side and prepare this list of steamboat equipment to make it convenient for everyone. Here is the ultimate checklist for a complete steamboat meal.
- A hot pot – Choose a pot that’s wider than its depth so that it’s easier for people to cook Opt for something that can contain at least 2 liters of broth if possible. Have a divider if you wish to have two kinds of soup flavours A lid is optional.
- Stove – Choose an electric or induction cooker, or a portable butane burner.
- Long chopsticks – For transferring ingredients (Preferably 1 pair for 2 guests)
- Personal ladles – For soup (Preferably 1 pair for 2 guests)
- Personal strainers – For ingredients (Preferably 1 pair for 2 guests)
- Personal tongs – For ingredients (Preferably 1 pair for 2 guests)
- One set of steamboat dipping sauce bowl, main bowl, plate and cutleries for each guest.
You’ll also require a separate pot (or a kettle) to keep extra broth for replenishing, and plenty of plates and bowls for each of the steamboat ingredients.
After preparing the equipment, time to decide the kind of steamboat ingredients that your Chinese New Year family members and guests cannot resist.
We’ve got you covered.
The Ultimate List of Steamboat Ingredients
Prioritise variety over quantity for a good steamboat ingredients list. This allows everyone to customise their meals and enriches the broth. Try to have at least three items for each of the following five categories if possible and you’re set for a delicious dunking experience.
There are two more categories at the end to give your steamboat a little bit of a twist if you wish. General rule-of-thumb: Most steamboat ingredients are raw so use small or thin pieces for easy cooking. Little or no marination is needed beforehand because the soup and natural flavours can do the magic.
Meat is an essential ingredient for a great steamboat and decides the depth of the broth’s flavour Different cuts of meat can determine the whole dining experience. Opt for thinner slices for items that need to be thoroughly cooked (like pork) and you can afford a little thicker cut for others (like beef). Offals are optional and processed meat can be an option for variety.
- Beef fatty cut slices
- Beef meatballs
- Beef tripe
- Pork loin slices
- Pork belly slices
- Pork collar slices
- Pork meatballs
- Pig’s stomach
- Pig’s intestines
- Pig’s liver
- Pig’s brains
- Pig’s kidneys
- Pig’s ears
- Pig’s blood tofu
- Taiwan sausages
- Cocktail hot dogs
- Luncheon Meat
- Lamb or mutton shoulder or leg slices
- Lamb meatballs
- Chicken thigh or breast fillet slices
- Chicken’s liver
- Chicken’s gizzard
- Chicken’s heart
- Chicken’s feet
- Chicken meatball
- Duck fillet slices
- Smoked duck slices
Our leafy additions can freshen the soup to balance out the meaty steamboat ingredients. Prepare plenty as they tend to wilt considerably (especially the leafy ones) after being dipped in the soup. For those with thicker stems, you might wish to chop them into half or smaller for easier cooking. Root vegetables can also be chopped up into one or two inch chunks.
- Chinese lettuce
- Iceberg lettuce
- Bok Choy
- Tang Oh
- Kang Kong
- Kai Lan
- Chye Sim
- Napa Cabbage
- Chinese spinach
- Fa Cai
- French Beans
- Bean Sprouts
- Sweet Corn
- Baby Corn
- Yam or Taro
- Sweet Potato
- White Radish
- Lotus root slices
- Bamboo Shoots
- Water Chestnut
- Lady’s fingers
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Seaweed or Kelp
- Spring Onions
- Szechuan vegetables
- Preserved mustard greens
- Silken Tofu
- Firm Beancurd (Tau Kwa)
- Fried Beancurd Puff (Tau Pok)
Seafood can add more layers and richness to the soup, with many favouring the briny umami that surfaces after they cook. Soft crustacean shells and heads are usually key to bring out that punch in the soup. Just give a little bit more prep time for them as most seafood require plenty of cleaning and filleting. Some can disintegrate in the soup so keep them dipped in your strainers. Here are some of the seafood options for your Chinese New Year steamboat:
- Batang fish slices
- Threadfin slices
- Grouper slices
- Pomfret slices
- Halibut slices
- Sea bass slices
- Monkfish slices
- Salmon slices
- Red Snapper slices
- Tilapia slices
- Soon Hock slices
- Dory Fish slices
- Cod thick slices
- Fish balls
- Fish cake
- Fish paste
- Squid balls
- Prawn balls
- Fish maw
- Large prawns
- Sliced Abalone
- Flower or Mud Crabs
- Imitation crab sticks
- Sea Cucumber
- Pacific Clam
- Sea Asparagus
- Bamboo Clam
- Fried Fish Skin
Mushrooms or Fungi
Our meaty vegetable cousins are great for adding some bite for our friends who prefer a vegetarian steamboat, but it also otherwise adds a nice volume to the dishes and soup. The best part is that they are incredibly nutritious to boot!
- Shimeji Mushrooms
- Button Mushrooms
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Oyster Mushrooms
- Portobello Mushrooms
- Straw Mushrooms
Carbs are a staple in every Asian meal. They help relieve the rich flavours from other ingredients and a great addition to the steamboat at the end for a tasty porridge or noodle finish.
- Udon Noodles
- Soba Noodles
- Egg Noodles (Mee Kia or Mee Pok)
- Yellow Noodles
- E-fu Noodles
- La Mian
- Instant Noodles
- Thin or Thick Rice Vermicelli (Beehoon)
- Kway Teow
- Bee Tak Mak
- Bean Vermicelli
- Sweet Potato Vermicelli
- Mee Sua
- Korean Rice Cakes (Ddeokbokki)
- Chinese Rice Cakes
- Mee Hoon Kueh
- White Rice
- Brown Rice
Eggs can be prepared in two ways. The smaller quail eggs tend to be pre-boiled and shelled, and are dipped for some quick eggy treats during the meal. The century is also prepared beforehand as a separate dish just to be eaten on its own. Chicken or duck eggs are usually raw and cracked into a ladle for cooking in the soup, or used as a dipping sauce for cooked meat. Yum!
- Chicken Egg
- Quail Egg
- Preserved Century Egg
Sometimes a few surprising entries can make for a refreshing dining experience. Here are a few optional add-ons to jazz up that Chinese New Year steamboat ingredients list.
- Meat or Prawn Dumplings
- Ngoh Hiang
- Yong Tau Fu
- Cheese Tofu or Meats
- Beancurd Skin
- Vegetarian mock meat
- Black Fungus
- Red Dates
- Wolfberries (Goji berries)
Chinese New Year Steamboat Ingredients That Have Auspicious Meanings
- There’s a common Chinese saying that wishes a person to have “a fish every year”. Fish resembles abundance, thus it’s a way of wishing all your guests to always have more than they need.
- Prawns are added for happiness as it sounds like laughing – “ha” in Cantonese.
- Red meat was considered a treat in old days and its presence nowadays among your steamboat ingredients still represents abundance and a good bounty.
- Rice is a staple because it represents prosperity and for the other carb, noodles, do not cut them because their length express longevity. Dumplings taste great and represent richness because their shape is like gold or silver ingots.
- Vegetables also sound similar to “wealth” in Chinese, especially the black stringy Fa Cai, which sounds like “grow wealth”.
Generally, avoid bitter or sour foods because the meal speaks for the year ahead and we don’t want any unpleasant moments! No matter which ingredient you pick, having leftovers is great as it shows abundance and that you will always have more to eat. So, keep that list long and flavourful.
Rookie Steamboat Mistakes to Avoid
Steamboats are simple delicious affairs but when we’re dealing with direct cooking and raw ingredients, it’s always good to have some rules in place to ensure that the meal stays healthy and safe. Take note!
- With the constant to-and-fro, don’t forget to check whether your food is cooked thoroughly before eating!
- If someone has just added something raw, don’t take out your food straightaway to prevent cross-contamination.
- Get good fresh steamboat ingredients. Don’t think that having a good broth is sufficient. Great ingredients will impart their flavours and level up your steamboat soup base!
- Conversely, don’t have a bland soup base. You don’t want to wait ‘til the end to have a sip. Steamboat dipping sauces are deceptively loaded with sodium so don’t overload your ingredients with them.
- We love our soup piping hot but this might lead to increased risks of oesophageal cancer, so just let things cool a little.
- As the pot cooks, you’ll notice a lot of “foam” floating around. Scoop it out as it’s mostly fat and coagulated protein.
Like we said early on, having your own steamboat requires a nutritious and healthy broth to set the tone. Luckily for you, creating the traditional steamboat soup base recipe is easy and quick. Here are some recipes that you can’t go wrong with.
Traditional Clear Steamboat Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Approx. Cost: $35
The most common steamboat clear soup base recipe is just a simple chicken stock. It’s deliberately kept fuss-free because with too many ingredients might render it overly salty by the end of the meal. Get the full recipe from Serious Eats.
- 2-4 kg of chicken parts (wings, bones, breast and legs)
- Water (4 liters)
- Large onions, diced (2)
- Large carrots, diced (4)
- Large celery, diced (4)
- Medium garlic cloves, crushed (8)
- Large parsley sprigs (2)
- Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and simmer over low heat.
- Cook for about 1hr and 30 mins.
- Strain through with a fine mesh and let cool.
- You can keep the stock in a fridge for up to 5 days and skim off the scum before using.
Pro-tip: Use breasts for a cleaner thinner stock and wings for a richer, more gelatinous flavour.
Sometimes the best steamboat soup base recipe is also the simplest one. This clear soup base is a safe bet and will go well with any kind of Chinese New Year steamboat ingredients. But hey, why stop at tradition? With one steamboat meal happens after another during Chinese New Year, give your family members and guests a delicious surprise. Here are some of our alternative best steamboat soup base recipes for that twist.
Vegetarian Steamboat Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Approx. Cost: $25
This one’s for our herbivorous friends. Although seemingly daunting, a hearty vegetarian steamboat soup base is possible! Here is our healthy nutritious alternative. Get the full recipe from BonAppetit.
- Olive oil (3 tbsp.)
- Water (4 liters)
- Medium onions, diced (4)
- Celery stalks, diced (18)
- Large carrots, diced (4)
- Button or cremini mushrooms (450g)
- Small fennel bulb (2)
- Garlic clove, halved cross-wise (2)
- Parsley sprigs (12)
- Bay leaf (2)
- Black peppercorns (1 tbsp.)
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
- Add all ingredients and stir occasionally until soft, about 5 – 7 mins.
- Add 4 liters of cold water and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- Strain through with a fine mesh and let cool.
- You can keep the stock in a fridge for up to 5 days.
Pro-tip: Dice the vegetables smaller to make them tastier, leave the skin on the onions for a (it gives the soup more flavour) and brown the vegetables during stir-fry for some sweetness in your soup.
Recommended tips for a successful vegetarian steamboat: Chosen ingredients chosen should have a variety of textures to jazz things up so do pick a variety of mushrooms from our ultimate steamboat ingredients. Mix them up to create a soupy salad of leafy greens, stalks, roots and fungi for a fulfilled steamboat soup recipe, healthy and complex!
Miso Japanese Steamboat Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Approx. Cost: $30
This Kyoto-style Miso steamboat soup base contains a rich broth that adds a nice earthiness to items from our steamboat ingredients list. It’s a little bit more expensive to make but takes only 15 minutes! Get the full recipe from ECKitchenSG.
- Water (4 liters)
- Rice vinegar (5 tsp.)
- Sesame sauce (8 tbsp.)
- Sweet white miso paste (20 tbsp.)
- Dashi powder (2 tsp.)
- Combine all ingredients and boil over medium heat.
- Ready to serve when all the ingredients have dissolved and the broth has come to a boil.
Pro-tip: Add some kelp into the soup base for another level of umami to the broth. If your guests don’t mind do throw in spring onions to give the soup some sweet freshness.
Continue the Japanese steamboat theme with Udon and Soba noodles for the carbs and focus a little on the mushrooms as well, especially Enoki and Shitake mushrooms. This Japanese steamboat soup base recipe also goes well with some ponzu dipping sauce or even bottled teriyaki sauce for a different kick.
Seafood Korean Steamboat Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Approx. Cost: $20
A Korean jeongol is usually served with all the selected ingredients already in the bubbling soup base, so it’s like a stew. There’s usually one main meat ingredient in the traditional jeongol . This one meant for octopus is a great Korean steamboat soup base alternative for seafood lovers. Get the full recipe from All Seafood Recipes.
- Water (4 litres)
- Zucchini, sliced (225g)
- Mushrooms, sliced (100g)
- Carrots, sliced (100g)
- Spring onions, chopped (3 stalks)
- Green chili paste (2 tbsp)
- Chili powder (1 tbsp)
- Garlic cloves, mashed (2)
- Sesame seed (1 tbsp)
- Soy sauce (2 tbsp)
- Stir-fry the zucchini, onions, mushroom and carrots for 5 minutes.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients before adding it to the pot.
- Add the water and bring it to boil.
- Ready to serve when cool.
Pro-tip: For those wanting a little savoury earthiness, try adding some bean paste. If you like it spicy and tangy, some Korean kimchi always does the trick.
Korean steamboat ingredients veer towards mushrooms, greens, and tofu with little meat to keep things healthier. Prepare some kimchi, anchovies and pickles as side dishes to complement the Korean-style of dining.
Milky Steamboat Fish Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 25 minutes | Approx. Cost: $20
A steamboat fish base recipe is always a safe bet as it’s often delicious and nutritious. The best thing is that it doesn’t even need any messy fish parts like the head or bones. Your friends will never be able to tell the difference! Get the full recipe from ECKitchenSG.
- Water (4 litres)
- Dried sole fish or mermaid fish (40g ground to powder)
- Ginger, sliced (20g)
- Unsalted butter (60g)
- Evaporated milk (160ml)
- Salt to taste
- Heat the pot up over medium heat and melt butter in pot.
- Add in ground fish powder and ginger and stir-fry to release fragrance.
- Add water and bring to boil.
- Add in evaporated milk and salt to taste.
Pro-tip: Instead of evaporated milk, try unsweetened soy milk for a refreshing alternative. For those wanting a saltier soup, you can add some fried anchovies and strain them out after the soup is done.
Our steamboat fish soup base recipe goes exceedingly well with all kinds of seafood of course but do add some fresh greens or tofu to prevent the base from tasting too salty.
Bak Kut Teh Steamboat Pork Soup Base Recipe
Serves: 6 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Approx. Cost: $25
Why just settle for a standard steamboat pork soup base recipe when you can have Bak Kut Teh? The local favourite soup dish can serve as a perfect base for pork and chicken platters. Get the full recipe from ECKitchenSG.
- Water (4 liters)
- Bak Kut Teh pre-packed spices (2 pkts.)
- Large garlic clove, smashed (2)
- Peppercorn, crushed (4 tbsp.)
- Oyster sauce (4 tbsp.)
- Small rock sugar (4)
- Salt to taste
- Combine all items in a pot and bring water to boil.
- Serve when ready.
Pro-tip: You can adjust the peppercorns to taste and freshen things up with some parsley. For those who like their herbal concoctions, try adding some wolfberries to the mix.
One usually boils all the above with pork cuts for the traditional Bak Kut Teh but that’s not needed here for a steamboat pork soup base. The meat ingredients will release flavours to the broth as the dipping continues throughout the meal. Have some small plates of shredded chilies served in light and dark soya sauce to complete the meal!
Finally, any Chinese New Year steamboat list is not complete without some dipping sauce for our cooked fare. Do it like the professionals and keep everyone happy with a station of ingredients where they can come up with their own unique dipping sauce recipe. Here are the usual suspects:
- Light soya sauce
- Dark soya sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chili oil
- Chili flakes
- Spring onions, chopped
- Raw garlic, diced
- Onions, diced
- Sesame seeds
- Chili, cut
- Rice wine
There’s no absolute formula to make the right dipping sauce besides using your favourite seasonings so have a go at trying different mixes during the dinner.
Now that you are all prepared for the upcoming reunion dinner with this list of steamboat ingredients, why not have a look at some great abalone recipes to accompany your bubbling dinner? And don’t forget to entertain your guests with some healthy CNY snacks. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
First published: Giant Singapore Blog