Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reunion Steamboat

Whenever one of my aunts came home from the United States or Australia, my father would take out our small charcoal steamboat and call all of them for a good dinner at our house. We had a special long table for eight made for his fiftieth birthday. Our aunts had also sewn a special table cloth as birthday present for him.

My father loved all his brothers and sisters very much, he being the eldest and he saw to it that all of them received a good education. He was most proud of 8th aunt, 9th aunt,10th aunt and llth aunt. You will be surprised to know that I have 13 aunts. My grandfather had named them well. Each had a name of a flower or a precious stone followed by the word, fairy. Thus being so well named, they were indeed beautiful like fairies.

( watch out for another post on my aunts)

As children we were very envious of our aunts who were well educated, well dressed and sparkling. Somehow that image got stuck in my head for a long time. As we grew up,my cousins and I were often told that the new generation of Tiong girls were not as "glamourous " as the previous generation's girls (my aunts). Although I am now in my 50's I do admit that I have not yet acquired that sparkle!

A family gathering would focus on wonderful food. What did my father put on the table (for eight or more) ?

It would be his steamboat.

l kg fresh beef (A1 Topside Beef from Kim Guan Siang Cold Storage, Sibu of the 50's and 60's)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 litres of chicken stock (from l whole local kampong chicken)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
300 gm abalone mushrooms, rinsed
300 gm black mushrooms, soaked and cut and rinsed
500 gm bok choi, washed and cut in half
500 gm chai sim (mustard green), washed and cut in half
1 chinese long cabbage washed and cut into 6 cm pieces
2 ringgit worth of white toufoo, cut into cubes
20 river prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 large pak cheong or white pomfret (sliced into 20 pieces)
and l tin of ham (from Denmark)optional - use fresh ham if available
l large packet of tan hoon (rice vermicelli) - soaked


1. Place beef, garlic, ginger and soy sauce in a bowl and marinate for an hour
2. Place chicken stock in a pot and bring to a boil Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour a portion of the stock into the steamboat and reheat just before serving.
3. When the stock starts to boil, place a portion of the beef, mushrooms, vegetables,tofu and prawns, fish and slices of ham into the steam boat. Add the rice vermicelli last.
4. Serve in individual bowls.
4. Do not over boil the ingredients.

A steamboat gathering is something warm, fun and when everyone wishes everyone to eat well, there is a lot of bonding. Chopsticks would swing around, cups would be raised to wish another good health and good wealth and lots of noise would be made. In the warmth of this reunion, parting would not be so painful and thoughts of loneliness and alienation would banish.

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