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Sunday, April 05, 2009

One night of hot pot

Ahhh.... the onset of winter.

As the last echoes of summer subside, I find myself looking forward to the cooler months. Cold nights mean bigger appetites and that paves the way for hearty portions of comfort food. Hurrah.

Our latest Stomach's Eleven venture saw us descend on the home of M&L for a night of hot pot or steamboat. There's a little bit of prep work involved for the host, but for the most part, it's reasonably simple as guests cook their own dinner by dipping various meats, vegetables, noodles and tofu into the simmering pot of stock on the table.

Because the cooking process is minimal, it's important to get the best and freshest ingredients you can find. Once everything is washed, chopped and set on the table, it's over to guests to help themselves, a great social meal that usually involves plenty of lighthearted squabbling.

There was no shortage of variety of ingredients on offer this evening. I'd never before seen such an assembly of delectable dippable goodies.

The laden table

Beef slices

Lamb slices

Both the beef and lamb are available from Asian butchers or grocers, usually frozen in a takeaway box.

King prawns

Fish fillets

Fish balls

Dumplings, noodle rolls, roe-filled fish balls and seafood sticks

The roe-filled fish balls (the ones with the orange dots) were the crowd favourite, a pleasing burst of salty sweet roe hidden within.

Chinese winter melon

New year cake noodles, bamboo fungus and fresh tofu

I was quite fascinated with the bamboo fungus, something I'd never eaten before much to the dismay of my colleagues. A type of stinkhorn fungus, it commonly grows amongst bamboo, hence its name, although it's also referred to as long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady. In Mandarin, it's called zhu suen.

Once found only occasionally in the wild, the bamboo fungus was usually eaten only by royalty or the very rich. Today it is cultivated commercially in China and found at your local Asian grocery store. Lauded for its medicinal properties, bamboo fungus is supposed to help prevent cancer and obesity and the packet claimed it contained 19 types of amino acids.

Oh yes, I insisted on seeing the packet for myself. Purchased in dried form, the fungus was rehydrated by M before we cooked it again in our simmering pot of soup. Texture-wise, it was quite unusual, like a sticky and soft spongy netting. At $3.50 for a packet, I'm looking for this on my next Asian grocery store visit.

Shiitake, enoki, oyster and king brown mushrooms

Black fungus (also known as cloud ear fungus)

Bean curd sheets

Mixed vegetables

Simmering stock (we had one side with chilli, the other without)

Garlic and shallots

My sauce bowl

The DIY sauce options were another new thing to me. Sha cha jiang, or sandy tea sauce, came in a tin and was a a dark paste of brill fish, shrimp, garlic, shallots, sesame, peanut, coconut, chilli powder, spices and salt. This was combined with sesame paste (gi ma jiang) which is the brown paste above.

Add a slurp of sesame oil, a slosh of soy sauce and as much fresh garlic and shallots as you please. You then dip your cooked meat or vegetables into your sauce bowl for extra salt and flavour.

Steamboat action

And because we were celebrating two birthdays (M2 and K), it was pavlova time, a store-bought base but lovingly decorated by K.


And then a take-home gift, just for me!

85C Premium milk bun $2.80

In her shopping travels for dinner that evening, M had popped into the 85C Bakery Cafe in Chatswood for her favourite treat, the premium milk bun, and then grabbed another for me. I'd been curious to try this after hearing rave reviews from a GYF reader and M herself.

Oh it's good. Like the softest fluffiest sweet bun you could imagine, encrusted with a sugary buttery crumbly topping.

Happiness is good friends who are good cooks and good shoppers :)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
11 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/05/2009 12:47:00 am


  • At 4/05/2009 2:25 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Yumm I love a good steamboat! Was wondering what was in your steamboat stock?

  • At 4/05/2009 9:23 am, Blogger K said…

    Mmmm it was good indeed. Now that it's getting even colder, let's do it again! Btw, have you ever measured the length of your blog entries? Text and images together? Which is your longest?

  • At 4/05/2009 9:54 am, Anonymous Pete said…

    Wow, that's a hell of a spread! One of my favourite things since moving to OZ is the availability of hot pots. Not something you see back home...to extent that I think it's a great business idea.

    Such a social way to enjoy food. It lends itself perfectly to conversation and laughter. Looks fantastic :)

  • At 4/05/2009 10:08 am, Blogger Nola said…

    Wow, what an amazing feast. Everything looked so fresh and delicious. I've only just had breakfast, but I am feeling a little hungry again now!

  • At 4/05/2009 12:50 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    Quite an elaborate spread for steamboat, especially in the area of the fungi. I'm a big fan of communal eating such as this!

    The bamboo fungus I found quite interesting. I've seen it used a number of times on the Iron Chef.

    One thing I wasn't expecting to see the yuba bean curd sheets in the ingredients list but it seems like a good fit. One thing I was expecting to see but didn't was the little bundle of noodles that look like a little cocoon. I've seen these quite often at hot pot occasions I've been to in the past.

  • At 4/06/2009 2:48 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - I believe it came out of a packet! It comes in all kinds of flavours :)

    Hi K - Nope I've never measured the entries but you're more than welcome to! lol. Not sure about my longest, but hey, surely it's not about length but how you use it? ha.

    Hi Pete - I agree, I love the social nature of hot pot. Even to the point of "fishing for your food" gives such accomplishment!

    Hi Maggie - Hot pot does rely on simple but fresh ingredients. Now that the weather is cooling down, it's a perfect time for more hot pot action!

    Hi Simon - I know the noodles you mean. We did have little scrolls of rice noodles plus New Year Cake noodles but not the vermicelli kind you mention. I love mushrooms too. So many good things to be had in steamboat the question is where to start and how to prolong the finish!

  • At 4/06/2009 9:16 am, Blogger Y said…

    Yum. Yes, its definitely time to brush the dust off my steamboat too!

  • At 4/06/2009 11:15 am, Anonymous Veruca salt said…

    Wonderful spread. So much variety. Hot pots are perfect for this time of the year.

    Although I do need my meat, I am also loving the mushrooms and silky soft tofu squares. All dipped into a nice chilli soy sauce.

  • At 4/06/2009 11:27 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    that's a great array of yummy ingredients. has now inspired me to try and get together with my friends who have a hot pot.
    s :-)

  • At 4/06/2009 2:09 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    19 out of 20 amino acids is pretty impressive. I guess this bamboo fungus would be a good one for vegetarians. I love the diversity of ingredients you've got. Hotpot is fun!

  • At 4/07/2009 10:09 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - Yep, winter does have its perks :)

    Hi Veruca Salt - Agreed. I must investigate this sandy tea sauce too. It was quite delish.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Love communal eating. So easy too :)

    Hi Arwen - Note I did write "claimed". It is impressive.


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