Some friends of ours had never tried Steamboat (also know and Hong Kong Hotpot), so we decided to take them to one of the more famous restaurants here – Megan’s Kitchen (美味廚) (5/F, Lucky Centre, 165-171 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, Phone 852 28668305). It is one of those places you wouldn’t know exists from the road because it is on the 5th floor of a building in busy Wan Chai, yet it is so popular that it is almost always booked out. Jean-Claude Van Damme have even eaten (eats) there.
Steamboat – how do I describe it simply? Fondue using soup instead of cheese or chocolate, meat and dumplings instead of fruit and bread. It is so much more than fondue. It starts with a soup. The soup base (as it is called) that restaurants use come in a variety of flavours. Some of the more popular soups tend to be sechuan chilli (burn your mouth off), satay or coriander, pork and preserved eggs. At home you can start with a soup base of just water… by the end of the meal you have an amazingly flavoursome soup. The soup is contained in a metal bowl, placed over an element or gas burner to boil.
We use the soup to cook the various foods we order. Back to Megan’s kitchen, they have quite a range of various dumplings, meats, vegetables and noodles to cook in the soup. Their spinach dumplings are divine. You can taste the freshness in the ingredients inside the dumplings. We throw the dumplings into the soup to cook for a while. When they float several minutes later, they are ready to eat. Same rule applies to prawn balls, fish balls and beef balls. Megan’s Kitchen have a very unique cheese filled beef ball (those are the ball shaped meat in the picture above. Once cooked, the outside is meat, but the inside has melted cheesy goodness which complements the meat.
Thin strips of meat are individually dipped into the boiling soup and cook in a matter of seconds. You can cook everything to your own liking, as each person cooks their own meat. Additionally, you can use condiments to make your own dipping sauce. Starting with a base of soy sauce, you can add chilli, coriander, sping onion, XO sauce, satay sauce, fresh garlic, fried garlic, and probably a whole pile of other things I am forgetting to make a dipping sauce to suit your own tastes.
The beauty of steamboat is the soup changes over time. The food absorbs the soup, but the soup also absorbs the flavours from the food. At the end of the night when the cooking is finished, it is often worth tasting the soup you’ve created. Especially if you have used a bit if seafood (prawns, scallops) the soup can be sweet in a savory way… I don’t know how quite to explain it – you’ll just have to come visit so I can show you.
There are also interesting things like this deep friend fish skin. Chinese use every part of the animal they can – make no mistake. As dubious as you might think this looks, it is actually pretty delicious. You can soak it in the soup, but I like to eat them as is. Think of them as fish skin chips. They are crunchy to the bite, and shouldn’t have a strong fish flavour at all. The restaurants that make their own deep fried fish skin taste the best.
We like Megan’s Kitchen because it is clean, the food is fresh and the flavours are good. The service often sucks though as they get busy and the waiters are good at ignoring people. This is also one of the more pricey steamboat establishments on Hong Kong Island. As for our friends? They loved it. I’ve been asked when we’re taking them back!