It seems that Singapore is covered in steam.
And it’s not just the sort of muggy weather we’ve been having either.
Have you noticed that there seems to be more steamboat and hotpot restaurants mushrooming?
The steamboat meal is more about the experience than the ingredients.
It’s important to have a good stock on which to build your meal.
I like the soup flavourful but not overwhelming. It should not overpower the ingredients.
Instead, the ingredients should enrich the stock so that by the end of the meal, you’ve got one mouthwatering pot.
Ingredients should always be fresh because boiling is the most immediate way of knowing if you’re dealing with freshness.
Add to the good stock and fresh ingredients, a bunch of foodie friends and leisurely pace to enjoy your hotpot, and you’ll be in for a steamingly good time.
The trend seems to favour individual pots.
This is bad for community spirit but with food taste being such a personal choice, it might be the best idea.
I spent a couple of weeks testing out several steamboats eateries.
Those that left me with an “I need water to quench my thirst now!” feeling – because the soups were probably loaded with MSG – have been omitted.
Fancy abalone? Here’s your haven
THE most surprising thing about Ah Yat Shabu Shabu Hotpot is the price.
You can get a set – with a buffet, three whole abalones, three prawns and a plate of meat – for $16.80 (lunch) or $19.80 (dinner).
The buffet was filling but the additional ingredients were bonuses.
And who doesn’t want an abalone for lunch?
Go for the clear chicken stock (which I like) or the Sichuan spicy soup (it’s not that spicy) or the very tart tom yum soup (it has a pleasing aroma of lemongrass).
Choose either a tiny individual pot or a common one to share.
Ingredients don’t veer too far from the expected, but they are fresh and plentiful.
This is the best place to go if you want something inexpensive but tasty.
If you’re feeling lonely, have an individual pot and bask in the company of the servers.
They are a friendly bunch and always willing to chat.
Ah Yat Shabu Shabu Hotpot
Address: #B1-10 The Heeren
Tel: 6836 2282
Opening Hours: daily for lunch from 11am to 5pm and for dinner from 5pm to 10.30pm
Take your pick from a conveyor belt
ANOTHER place with individual pots is Kichi Kichi.
And here, the food comes to you.
Some 40 ingredients circulate on a conveyor belt.
Pick up whatever you fancy.
Choose from six soups: mushroom, Sichuan, tom yum, chicken, herbal and prawn.
I like the mushroom one very much. The herbal is good too.
The prawn stock was nice and rich.
The Sichuan is nicely hot.
And the best thing? There is no post-soup tingly tongue.
Tired of the stock midway through your meal? Change it for $2.
My only complaint?
The uncomfortable stools – good only if you want to eat and run.
Otherwise, ask for a booth.
Lunch for weekdays (11am to 5pm) is $19.90 and dinner (5pm to 10pm) is $21.90.
Lunch and dinner on weekends, public holidays and dinner on the eve of holidays costs $23.90.
Kichi Kichi – Express Rotary Hotpot
Address: #02-23/24 City Square Mall
Tel: 9170 1146
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm daily
More costly, but it’s worth it
TANYOTO is one of the most popular restaurant chains in China.
It’s unique in that it farms its own ingredients and the dishes are created with health in mind.
The standout soup base is the tomato version ($16 for a large pot, good enough for four).
Also get the tasty homemade four-treasure balls ($16) and fish lips ($30 for four pieces).
Prices here are higher than most, but it’s worth checking out.
Address: #01-25 Liang Court
Tel: 6836 6839
Opening hours: 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and 5.30pm to 11pm for dinner
Click on the thumbnails below to see pictures of more hotpot recommendations in Singapore: