A steamboat dinner or reunion meal for my family is traditionally held on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It is one of the most important meals for family members as they come back to the family home for a reunion dinner. This meal is to celebrate and welcome the new year together as a FAMILY.
With everyone now living far away, some being overseas, and a family coming-together is far and few in between, the reunion dinner is now more important than ever.
We know that traditionally, Chinese families have a steamboat dinner as the Chinese New Year Eve’s reunion dinner. A steamboat symbolises a family reunion because the steamboat pot, which is normally round in shape, represents family “reunion” (團圓Tuányuán) in Chinese.
On top of that, it is easy to prepare and can accommodate a large number of people. It does not require constant cooking, as most of the ingredients served are raw. There is no doubt there is a lot of work required during the preparation, but once everyone sits down, it is a matter of self service, and all it needs is to top up the stock/soup when needed.
This allows family members to focus on the food on the table rather than being busy cooking in the kitchen. So while waiting for the food to be cooked, this is a great opportunity to catch up and exchange experiences, reconnecting and bonding. It is a time to enhance family relationships!
How is a steamboat served?
This is when the family would gather around a pot of bubbling soup/broth or stock with various cooked and raw ingredients.
The raw ingredients, like prawns, meat, fish, meat ball, fish balls, vegetables, noodles etc. are placed around the soup pot, and family members will take turns to add the ingredients into the pot of boiling stock. The stock/soup will be continually added to the pot to ensure there is enough stock to boil the raw ingredients.
There is no sequence / rules as to when and how to eat; you just add the ingredients that you like into the boiling pot of stock and just enjoy the food when it is cooked.
As more and more ingredients are being added to the boiling stock, you can be guaranteed that the stock will be very tasty after a very short while of cooking. The delicious and sumptuous meal will surely warm the taste buds, and the happy surroundings leave a memorable experience for everyone involved.
Enjoy your family reunion, and here’s wishing all of you a Happy Chinese New Year.