Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooking in a steam boat.

In 1907, my dad's grandfather left China for Borneo. During this century, five generations have been born, and our taste of food has evolved round the food of the region. While we eat predominantly Chinese food, our favourite is Thai. When we do eat out, we go to our favourite Thai restaurant at Ponsonby.

We like the sweet sour spicy Tom Yum Khong, a prawn soup. They come in different utensils, and twice, they came in the above containers.

I was delighted to see a replica of the steamboat my mum had. This Mongolian fire pot, a donut-shaped brass or stainless steel pot is like a moat of a castle. It has a central funnel to hold hot coals or charcoal that sitting on a grill. Every now and then, mum had to replenish the burning charcoal, and we children would have to move away and be very still. This photo is a replica, the food was already cooked, The heat inside was more a decor.

The other black one looked more like the Mongolian soldier's conical hat. This was flamed to be the origins of the steam boat. The soldiers inverted their metal hat and cooked their food with it. I bet they hurdled round the fire as the winter can be bitterly cold.

The following was a post I did in July, and I am repeating this for Chef E.

Let's eat Steamboat may incur a Huh??? look on your friends' faces. What is a steam boat?

Remember Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo? During the time of the Mongolian Statesmen in Chinese history when the Great Wall of China was built, the fierce nomadic soldiers spread terror to China. Legend has it that the soldiers wore a metal hat, when it was time to cook their meals, they simply inverted their hats and used them to cook their meals. From them, came the Steamboat.

When I was little, my parents had a traditional steamboat. It was like a donut with the chimney in the middle. Mum would drop burning charcoal into the chimney, and on the donut ring, she had boiling soup. Thin slivers of meat of all sorts, vegetables, mushroom, tofu, noodles are quickly cooked. We used little basket like ladles to scoop up the food we like. Then we drank the delicious soup which is packed with all the goodness of the meat and vegetable stock.

Eating steamboat is a lengthy process. It is a good time for parents to tell children stories of the old, especially when we had left our home land. It would not suit people who are poor and have to rush through their meals to go and work.

These days, the cumbersome charcoal steamboats have given way to electric or gas ones. The chimney is gone, and it is more like cooking on the table. I am a person of nostalgia. I lament for Mum's steam boat. Steam boat has also evolved, in Singapore, some restaurants were serving runny rice porridge instead of soup to cook your morsels of meal and veg in.

This photo was taken on New Year's day. It was summer in New Zealand. My host, J had the steam boat outside her patio. We all sat outside eating, likened to what the Mongolians did, outside their tent.


Chef E said...

Thank you Ann for doing this, I am going to do a re-post on my site, and link back to you!

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Ann, this was so interesting! so many cooking vessels our ancestors brought over are far ahead of their time.

I am very fond of both Chinese and Thai foods. they are my "go-to" dishes when i don't know what to cook. if there any leftovers, they are gone by the next day!

Ruth said...

What an interesting post! We love Thai food and are fortunate to have some authentic restaurants in our area. Their soups are so good. (The Chinese restaurants here are not authentic)

Jean said...

like d design of d plates

A smile from SJ =)

Thomas C B Chua said...

Ann, you have stirred up nostalgia from my soul. One more thing lacking these days is the natural and fresh ingredients that go with the steam boats. The steam boats at restaurants tend to serve processed foods.