During early invention of hotpot or steamboat style of cooking it was more common during winter as people used the vessel to serve piping hot food and also keep the house warm. But now restaurants offer steamboat buffet in Singapore and in several large cities across Southeast Asia around the year while chefs are making new variations to retain interest of locals around this popular dish. The dish traditionally called hotpot got the nickname “Chinese steamboat” due to the structure of the bowl which has a funnel like shape in the center that appears like the funnel of a steam boat. People that have adopted this form of cooking in their daily lives across Asia have made their own variations to suit their cooking styles and convenience.
Here are some regional variations of the traditional Chinese Steamboats:
The structure of this hotpot is very similar to the traditional coal heated ones made popular by traders and travelers across mainland China. These are divided into different sections and are common across restaurants and homes. Most traditionally designed restaurants offering steamboat buffet, offer Beijing hotpot in large brass dish that is sectioned off with different types of broths in each section. The base of hotpot vessel is placed above burning hot coals and it also has a chimney like structure at its center making the base look like a large donut.
True to its name the Manchurian hotpot has plenty of pickled cabbage that is commonly used in local dishes. This sauerkraut gives a distinct flavor to the steamboat and does not affect the flavor of other products like fishes and meat that are added to this soup. Though the Manchurian hotpot was only available in local homes, the movement of people from that region across China and other nations has increased its popularity.
This is a spicy version of Chinese steamboats that can leave first time tasters gasping for water. Aptly named as Ma La Hotpot or Numb and Spicy as it makes the tongue numb, its spicy flavor is due to existence of Sichuan Pepper. Along with meats and vegetables this Sichuan recipe that has a pride of place in steamboat buffet contains several local spices.
Besides the most popular ones stated above there are other variations of Chinese steamboats popular across the region like Yuan Hang Hot Pot, Cantonese hotpot, Taiwanese hotpot and several fusion versions invented by adventurous cooks that offer a mix of different regional vegetables.