Heal the worrrrllllld. Make it a better plaaaace, for you and for me and the entire human raaace!
This is how I feel about dinner parties. A time to bring together disparate groups of friends and enjoy delicious, hearty, healthy food together.
At Christmas in our first year in New York, we hosted 10 people sitting on our knees or on cushions around our tiny coffee table. I tried hard to think through the many recipes tucked into my head that would work with that situation. We had vegetarians, pescetarians and hungry, hungry meat eaters that all needed to be satisfied and full by the end of the night, but I didn’t want to be slaving away for a full day making a roast, 3 vegetables and a vegetarian main.
Then, my brain went ding ding ding. There was a dish from my childhood that I knew how to prepare that actually had everyone cook their own meal in real time. Genius. All I had to do was cut up some vegetables, buy some prepared proteins from the Asian grocer and make a simple stock. Easy.
Think of Steam Boat (also known as Hot Pot) as the soup version of fondue. It’s an incredibly interactive experience that allows every person to customize their meal including the condiments, the ingredients and the amounts. Because of this, it has become somewhat of a go-to for large groups that we host or groups with varied dietary requirements. The standard pot that we use has a division in the centre which means that one side can satisfy vegetarians and vegans whereas the omnivores of the group can cook their fish, poultry and red meat in the second half.
The two best parts of this experience are:
- The soup, which just gets more and more flavorful as the team cooks their proteins and vegetables in the broth, and
- The noodles, which as a rule in our house, always come last as a satisfying slurp sensation. This means that we’re already pretty full up on moist and meaty proteins and al dente vegetables and we won’t over gorge on starches.
You can likely easily go out and buy the pot and the gas stove from your local Asian grocery store for about 20-30 bucks. Make sure you get some extra cans of butane gas.
You could also do a less-interactive version on the stove top and just dish it out to everyone. In that case, add the veggies first, noodles second and the proteins last as they all cook super quick.
The beauty of this form of cooking is that you can customize your meal for your current dietary plan. You could literally eat meat and vegetables if you’re a meat head protein fiend, just fresh vegetables if you’re vegan, just noodles if you’re super weird. The way I do it: a vegan broth with no added sugar and natural sweetness from vegetables. Always add a heap of vegetables, lots of proteins whether meat or vegetarian, and lots or a little bit of carbs in the form of noodles. The fat content is incredibly low due to the fact that you’re basically boiling your ingredients but yet, the combination of the condiments and the soup make the flavors pop.
You can tweak carb content depending on what kind of noodles you buy. I use regular dried egg noodles (sometimes labeled scallop flavored noodles). You can use brown rice noodles to make it gluten free, bean noodles to reduce carbs or shirataki noodles to eliminate them altogether.
Best of all, you and your guests have fun, break metaphorical bread together and make a big mess:
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: As long as it takes to eat
Makes 6 servings
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro/coriander, chopped finely
- 4 green onions, sliced finely
- 3 mild chilies, sliced finely
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- Bottle of soy sauce
- Bottle of kecap manis (Malaysian sweet soy sauce)
- Bottle of sesame oil
- Bottle of hoisin sauce
- 4 leaves of Chinese/Napa cabbage
- 2 stalks of green onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 6 shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons of dried/fried onions
- 3 tablespoons of Xiao Shing rice wine
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable or chicken stock powder
- Soy sauce to taste
- White pepper to taste
- Chunky sliced vegetables (this time, I used the rest of the Chinese/Napa cabbage, 10 baby bok choy, a pack each of 5 types of mushroom: Shiitake, oyster, king oyster, enoki and shimeji, 1 white Japanese radish (parboiled), 1 lotus root (parboiled))
- Proteins (I used thinly sliced beef and pork, squid and tofu)
- Noodles (any kind, just make sure they’re for soup or else they might disintegrate) – around a palm sized serve per person.
Method (and a touch of madness)
- Dump all of the broth ingredients into a pot with 8 cups of water. Boil, boil, toil and trouble.
- Placed condiment ingredients in separate small bowls and place on the table. Arrange the sauce bottles nearby.
- I tend to do a small display plate of the vegetables to explain and then hard much larger bowls of the vegetables on another table. If you’ve got a large dining table, by all means, keep it together.
- Keep meats and proteins separate and noodles separate from that again.
- Once the broth has been boiling at least 20 mins, transfer it to the steam boat pot using a sieve to keep out the bits.
- Place on top of gas burner in the middle of the table. Allow everyone to cook whatever they want in the broth!
Guide for the ‘arians:
- Flexitarian – good
- Pescetarian – good
- Vegetarian – good
- Omnivore – good
- Vegan – good
- Gluten free – good
- Lactose free – good
Be sure that your meat is fresh or encourage everyone to cook the meat thoroughly. I trust my guys, so I cook the beef with a little pink still in it.
Go forth and heal the world a bowl at a time!