It’s been a while since my last post, hasn’t it? I guess my blogging frequency is about as consistent as Edinburgh weather, but that’s not the point of my post. Today I’m inspired to talk about Chinese New Year hot pot, or as we call it back in Malaysia, “steamboat”.
Why steamboat though? I always thought it was because the pot looked like a boat, and there was steam coming out of it, but say “steamboat” anywhere else in the world and all you’d get is blank stares. Hot pot makes more sense I guess, but it’ll always be steamboat in my heart.
To start off, I love steamboat, I really do. My highest frequency was 5 steamboats in a month, which my Malaysian friends think is really quite a lot. Steamboat is great; first there’s a tasty broth which may or may not be spicy, or there can be two broths (which is even better), and then there’s tons of stuff that you can throw into the broth, and then you wait and eat. Most people eat the stuff with sauces, but I like the original taste.
I’ve even got a proper procedure for eating steamboat, typically anyway. I like to start with throwing some veges in there, and mushrooms, to enhance the soup’s flavour. Next is the random steamboat stuffs like fishballs, crabsticks, and those… white and brown things that I really like. Picture for reference.
These things. That’s the Chinese name right there, but I really don’t know what they’re called in English. Regardless I love these things, they’re my favourite steamboat ingredient. But I digress; back to my steamboat process. The next thing is meats or fish or other seafood like mussels. Meats cook real quick so you just gotta watch them. And repeat the last two steps until you’re almost full (though at this point most people would have given up but I’d still be going strong), then in goes the noodles. The soup would be amazing by now. My cousins all love yee mee, but I’m a total meehoon person. I’d eat one or two rounds of noodles with soup, and that is usually the end of the meal for me. Unless someone throws in an egg and makes me eat some, but steamboat egg is a real messy thing.
Ah, steamboat. I can eat it on any occasion really – on my birthday, when we go to Cameron Highlands, or just randomly when we feel like it. Now, the link to Chinese New Year – in my family, eating steamboat for the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year eve is a tradition. We’d go to my grandfather’s place, and my aunt will make a really delicious chicken/pork soup base, and then the fun and deliciousness will begin. It’s something I really look forward to every CNY. And it’s my last memory of CNY back home, actually.
I’ve not been home for four consecutive Chinese New Years, the consequence of studying overseas. For my European friends, CNY is akin to your Christmas, and it’s our time for family get-togethers. In fact, there’s so much the two celebrations have in common. They’re both big celebrations, you’d get gifts/money (in CNY that’s only if you’re not married though), you go shopping beforehand (gifts for Christmas, new clothes for CNY), the eves are a big deal as well, and you get to reunite with the relatives you miss (or you get stuck with the annoying ones). And most importantly, there’s so much food. SO MUCH FOOD.
That said, my last CNY was in 2012, when I was still in A-Levels. If I think back to that time, I probably didn’t know yet where my future would take me. I was still stubbornly aiming for architecture, which in hindsight, was clearly a wrong decision. I didn’t even know that I would be studying in the UK, so I guess I didn’t treasure it enough. Who knew that it’d be my last CNY home for a long, long time? I don’t remember the details of the day, exactly who was there, exactly what was eaten; but I do remember the warmth, the deliciousness, and the joy all round.
So much has happened since that last CNY steamboat. I’d like to think I’m more festive than most – I’ve spent all of my CNYs here in UK with friends, or people I consider second family. I actually remember exactly how I spent each of the four CNY eves here.
Second year – CNY 2013. Our seniors booked a Chinese restaurant in Tollcross and invited the masses. It was like a massive Malaysian Chinese CNY party. There were three tables in all. I wore an old-ish yellow shirt, because I read somewhere that yellow was the lucky colour for that year, and I didn’t have any new shirts. The food was… okay I guess. Clearly not memorable enough for me. But it was my first year there and I was surrounded by new friends and a new environment, which was cool.
Third year – CNY 2014. My group of friends booked a large table in Imperial Palace, and the whole gang was there, plus a couple of seniors. Food was much better than the year before, and I think it was cheaper as well. They ordered a whole lot of stuff, like fish, three roasts, etc. I was now surrounded by my closest friends in UK, plus… some other people I was acquainted with, but mostly my closest friends. Like Jag and Boon Ho. Really kind of miss them now. 😦
Fourth year – CNY 2015. I wanted to spend my reunion dinner with who I considered my second family at that point, my flatmates Angie and Shaunee, and my boyfriend Kevin. I was so gung ho about it, and Angie was more than happy to comply. We did a steamboat in our flat. I cooked up a soup base, and Angie and I went round buying all sorts of steamboat ingredients, including loads of meat and seafood etc. It was great, almost like being home for CNY, except I had to go through the effort of making the soup, heh.
And then this year, MSc – CNY 2016. My reunion dinner was spent with people that I never knew years ago, with people that I never expected to know or meet, but am glad that I did. I’ve taken up a part time job, and I feel like I spend so much time there that it’s part of my identity now. And my colleagues there really feel like my second family, almost like siblings/cousins, and for the older ones, like my uncles and aunties. Everyone’s just so friendly – I guess that’s the hospitality business for you. But CNY this year was fun as well, hot pot at a restaurant, and I guess I got to flaunt my appetite for steamboat, which was amusing. 😛
What about next year? Well, CNY 2017, I will be home again. I’ve been away from home for too long, I’ve missed four CNYs too many. I’ll make sure that within my best possible abilities, I never miss a CNY reunion dinner back home again. Sure it’s fun celebrating with friends and new people I meet (including some pretty good looking people 😉 ), but ultimately, Chinese New Year is about family. There’s a reason why it’s called REUNION dinner. It’s the time where the whole family comes home, gets together, and be a family again. And it’s a feeling I really miss.
I can’t wait to be home for Chinese New Year hot pot again.