Best steamboat dinner with recipe for sauces

Having a steamboat dinner during winter is just purely comforting.  It’s a quintessential Chinese dinner in terms of socialising, sharing food cooked in a communal pot and having a heaving table from the generous variety of ingredients. Think of it as an Asian version of fondue where various ingredients are dipped into simmering stock, and everyone cooks their food the way they like. The possibilities for ingredients, stock and accompaniments are just endless!

What makes it even better is that it’s a quick dinner to pull together if you are having friends over as everyone does the cooking together. All you have to do is to assemble all the ingredients and have your stock and sauces ready!

I like having a choice of 2 stocks, chicken and tom yum, just for a bit of variety.  You also can save time by buying good quality, msg-free chicken stock from the supermarket. Over time, I’ve also learnt from my friends from Hong Kong that the dipping sauce to go with the food is just as important as the stock or fresh ingredients. If you have more time, you can also marinate the meats and seafood that you’re serving up to give them just that extra bit of flavour.

I did go a little nuts with the tofu array and we had 3 types of tofu on the night that P and A came over for an easy but sumptuous weekday steamboat dinner with the family. This steamboat spread was less elaborate than those that were done during my Uni days, where we cut and marinated all our choices of meat and seafood. These days, the Chinese grocer sells thinly sliced meat that’s great for saving time but not compromising on quality ingredients. I’ve included the marinade recipe for meat in case you’ll like to use it.

The Spread

  • 400 g white fish fillets, sliced
  • 400g sliced beef
  • Tofu -Tau pok
  • Fried tofu
  • Fish tofu
  • Yam cubes
  • Bean curd skin
  • Assortment of Fish balls
  • Vegetables ( Chrysanthemum leaves aka tong ho, bitter gourd and wombok ( Chinese cabbage)

Tom Yum Stock

  • 3 litres  Chicken stock
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and cut in half
  • 60 grams galangal, peeled and sliced
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 3-4 bird’s eye chillies, halved
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • handful of coriander stalks before you serve up

Chicken Stock

  • 3 litres  chicken stock
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and cut in half
  • 10 dried mushrooms (soaked and sliced)

Fish marinade

  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced coriander stalks and roots
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

Chicken/ Beef marinade

  • 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • dash of sesame oil
  • sprinkle of white pepper

Steamboat Dipping sauces

Soy’s steamboat Sesame Sauce

  • 2 tbsp sesame paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 6 tbsp stock
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes in oil
  • handful of spring onions

Warm the sesame paste in the microwave for 20 seconds, you’ll find that it’ll be much easier to mix in all the other ingredients. This recipe is specially great for my friends who are either pregnant, do not take alcohol or do not like vinegar. Stock is added in to let the sauce have more of a fluid consistency.

Soy’s special steamboat sauce

  • 3 tbsp chinese sate sauce (e.g. the brand we get in the Asian grocer’s is Jimmy’s)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3 tbsp stock
  • 3 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 egg yolk
  • big handful of chopped spring onions and coriander stalks

Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy!

Chinese sate sauce is from Hong Kong, which is a soy / shrimp / peanut based sauce, different to the Malaysian/ Singaporean satay sauce. Not only is this sauce very flavourful, but it’s hard to replicate due to the different ingredients in it. It’s also great in stir-fry.


  • finely sliced chillies in soy sauce
  • chopped coriander
  • sliced spring onions

Half an hour before your guests arrive, you’ll want to get the stocks simmering. Put in the dried beancurd sticks, tau pok and wombok as these 2 items soak up flavours and do take a little longer to cook. When it’s time for your guests to sit down, they can start off with these 3 items and cook more food as they go.

Basic steamboat equipment essentials

  • Camping stove
  • wide saucepan or dual soup pot
  • ‘wire basket’ ladles

You’ll have better luck finding a dual soup pot and ‘wire basket’ ladles at an Asian grocery shop. Less delicate food like fishballs and fish tofu can be put directly into the soup. The ‘wire basket’ ladles are for food that are more delicate and have a shorter cooking time like seafood and meat. You put the food into the ladle, submerge it in the soup and take it out after a minute or two. There’s also less danger of having the meat/seafood get lost and get cooked to oblivion before being fished out.

The main thing to remember about steamboat is that you can tailor it to your taste, whatever that may be. No two steamboat dinners will ever be the same! Encourage your guests to cook whatever they like, and especially in winter, gathering around the steaming soup will be warming both inside and out.

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  • mwa

    hmm looks good… i wan

  • AAng

    Steamboat in Aussie's Winter, Miss that alot! Looks like your steamboat recipe has gone up a level since I last had it!

  • honeyandsoy

    Come over and we can have it together! Somehow, having steamboat in a hot humid place doesn't give you the same satisfaction as when you huddle around the steaming pot when it's freezing outside!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    That looks like such a welcoming, delicious spread of food! Perfect for Winter! :D

  • The Intolerant Chef

    I love a good steamboat,and keep and electric wok just for that purpose (they are useless for anything else) I am a blogger in Canberra too and am having heaps of fun sharing my foodie journey. Cheers.

  • honeyandsoy

    It IS perfect for winter! In Singapore, lots of people have steamboat for their reunion dinner during Chinese New Year. But that's in summer for us, and we just can't handle it! Instead, we have lots of steamboats in winter!

  • honeyandsoy

    Hello Intolerant Chef! Thanks for visiting! And electric wok! I can't say we've seen one of those- is it like an electric frypan? We've found that using a portable gas stove is the easiest as there are no wires trailing across the table. We also have an old school electric steamboat… with the funnel centre… it was given to us, but we haven't used it for a loooong time.

  • The InTolerant Chef

    The electric wok is pretty much like an electric frypan. It cyclye the heat off and on with an element in the bottom, which is why it's useless to cook in. But great to steamboat!

  • Hannah

    Oooh, might I ask where you get your fisk tofu from? I'd *love* to try that! (With the sesame sauce… I love steamboat/hot pot dishes!)

  • soy

    Hey Hannah, you can get it at Dickson (Saigon Asian grocery). Ask Hoon (the lady boss at the cashier) for the fish tofu, it’s right at the back in the frozen food area. SeaAroy is the brand, Hakka is another one that is also a good. Try the SeaAroy mushroom bun tofu (it looks like a bun) also, honey loves them.

  • honeyandsoy

    Hannah, I think you mean fish tofu? You can get them at the frozen food section at any Asian grocery. Our favourite brand is SeAroy, but there are a few different ones out there. Yes, do try the recipes and please let us know how they turned out for you!

  • Amir N

    This looks exciting, I’ve never had this dining experience before. When you have the soup and the rest of the ingredients on the table (tofu, sauces etc), what would be the order to eat the food? Do you put the sauce in the pot or in your own bowl? What type of fish and meat did you use?