When it comes to reunion dinners, the communal steamboat is the first thing that comes to mind. It was the favoured meal of the Chinese emperors and later adopted by their people as a warm treat for the rare family gatherings.
Over time, cooking over the hot pot hasn’t changed much, but it is now enjoyed on more casual occasions. It’s available any time of the year — even for late night supper — with both friends and family. More premium ingredients are also added into the mix: think kurobuta pork slices, cuts of well-marbled wagyu beef, and fresh seafood.
Even with the fine array of meat and vegetables to pick from, the broth is always the deal breaker. The rich stock, or a thin soup breathes live into ingredients and intensifies with flavour towards the end of your meal.
Yet, enjoying a good steamboat has become more than just a simple affair of broth and ingredients. It’s also about service and environment — anything to make for the usually messy and hot dining experience much more comfortable. These hot pot places here take the hot pot game to the next level.
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This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.
The luxury steamboat restaurant re-opened in a bigger location at ION Orchard and unveils a modern and brighter space boasting six private rooms and al fresco dining areas. There are six different soups such as satay-flavoured stock and the Imperial Drunken Chicken soup, which is prepared with Shaoxing rice wine, ginseng and wolfberries. There’s fresh seafood (on display in tanks) and handmade noodles to look forward to here. Service is attentive, and diners can expect their steamboat pots refilled with fresh stock without asking.
The Marina Bay Sands restaurant is the first Singapore outpost of the Taiwan-based brand. Instead of the usual metal pots with little chimneys, Black Knight serves their broth in colourful cloisonne pots. There are six types of soup, all prepared with traditional Chinese herbs and is filled with premium ingredients as well. Diners will find a good selection of meats to try here from Japan, Australia and the United States, all thinly sliced for a quick dip in piping hot broth — similar to eating Japanese shabu shabu. Cooked items are also available here to complement steamboat. Go for the braised platter with tripe, trotters and tendons.
This restaurant is for those who prefer enjoying more than just two types of soup — especially when there are 13 kinds to pick from. Instead of just one pot, diners get a mini steamboat pot each with one choice of soup: from the traditional pork bone ones, the locally-inspired curry or satay bases to other international picks like kimchi broth. Diners can still order ingredients as a group though. While premium meats here are limited (you still get Kurobuta here), the fresh handmade meat and fish balls may satisfy. The traditional round-table setting gives way to plush banquette seatings here for big groups.
Black Cow is the restaurant that the wagyu cognoscenti will wax lyrical about. It serves nothing less than A4 graded marbled beef imported from Japan, and its most prized is the Matsusaka Wagyu (available seasonally), which is best eaten in a shabu shabu or sukiyaki. All shabu shabu or sukiyaki courses are good for one and come with appetiser, seasonal vegetables, tofu, fish cake and dessert. There’s also a variety of sakes available at the bar to go with your Japanese hotpot.
You might be unfamiliar with the cuisine of Mongolia, but Little Sheep might just turn you into a fan, especially if you’re particularly partial to lamb. The hotpot establishment from Inner Mongolia is known for its signature white soup, a rich, flavoursome, comforting broth made with 36 ingredients. Like your meats grilled? Supplement your hotpot with the Mongolian style roasted lamb shank or lamb leg.