Share and share alike

I've been a steamboat person ever since I could remember. Perhaps way back then, it wasn't so much the food that mattered but the whole concept of cooking right at the dinner table. Probably the closest I ever got to cooking at age 5, there was always the excitement of being allowed to dip my ladle-ful of noodles into the hot soup for a quick boil-up. Nowadays, I associate steamboat dinners with warmth (and not just from the portable stoves), lots of laughter and long conversations over the steaming boat. In a way, they are a test of how at ease you are with the people you are eating with - the cooking and sharing requires some level of familiarity.

Shahzan Inn Kuantan
Lot PT 240, Jalan Bukit Ubi/Jalan Masjid,
Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia.

Over the weekend, we chose to celebrate Father's Day and my mum's birthday with a steamboat dinner. From the pictures, you could probably gather that even before the stoves started going, it had all the makings of a fantastic dinner. In my book, 3 things set a steamboat meal apart - the freshness of the ingredients, the soup and the chilli sauce to go with it. That night, it was definitely check, check and check.

The classic chicken soup (I especially like it when its got loads of soft, sweet chinese cabbage in it) and the zesty tom yam variety (which I usually cannot get enough of).
The end of a steamboat meal is usually marked by some frenzied soup-slurping because, really, that's when the soup is at its best, with the sweetness and flavour of the ingredients infused into it. This time around, the fresh river prawns and mussels, special additions to the meal, really gave the soup depth and character. The just-cooked prawns also went excellently with a sauce one of us concocted - a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and sliced chillies.

Fried crab in salted egg yolk - one of my favourite styles. The yolk coated every part of the crab so you get that distinct taste of salted yolk in each bite. Part of the fun is making sure you've gotten every bit of yolk off the shell.

The Peking duck which kept everyone going back for more. The skin crisp, the meat tender and the sauce the right balance of sweet and salty - it brought back delightful memories of the Peking duck I had in Beijing. This has been as close as it has gotten to that, and probably healthier too.

"Aya, you all give things can take out price take first wan or not?"
Red eggs - the traditional Chinese celebratory item.

"Should we cut with the eggs still around the cake?"

Brandishing the butterfly sword.

We didn't just have the makings of a fantastic steamboat dinner, we had a fantastic steamboat dinner. Good steamboat, finger-licking good crab, that wondrous crispy duck, great company, 2 cakes and more than a dozen red eggs to top it all off - we were spoilt rotten that night, every single one of us.

Steamboat - the ultimate made-for-sharing-food.

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