For many families, steamboat, shabu shabu (or hotpot) is a popular, fuss-free way to put together a reunion dinner. But it’s more than just dunking pieces of food into boiling hot soup.

Are you enjoying steamboat wrong? 6 ways to tell. 

Instead of whipping up complicated dishes that may take hours to cook, many families these days are choosing the steamboat for their reunion dinners. And why not? Given its popularity and convenience, steamboat is a 1-dish-suits-all option. Take what you want, cook it in the broth, dip it into a sauce of your choice, and enjoy!

However, despite its popularity, many people are still eating it wrong. This explains why many suffer from stomach discomforts such diarrhoea, bloating, and indigestion, after a steamboat session. So, before you “suffer” the consequences of another year’s reunion hotpot, read below.

Mistake 1: The quality of the ingredients can be so-so as long as the soup is flavourful

Don’t ruin your steamboat with sub-standard ingredients. The freshness of the food items you have with your broth will affect the flavours and textures you’ll ultimately enjoy. Where possible, choose fresh over frozen food items. “With a hotpot experience, guests are simply simmering raw slices of meat and seafood into a pot of stock. You get to appreciate the natural, unadulterated taste of the sliced meat through this simple method of cooking. The ingredients you use speak for themselves, which is why showcasing the best quality and freshest meats is fundamental to enhancing your hotpot experience at home.

Mistake 2: Pay attention to your broth


A good broth serves as the foundation to a good hotpot meal. A simple yet wholesome broth can be made from white cabbage, chicken bones, and a little salt and white pepper. Leaving processed foods like fishballs, meatballs, and sausages in the soup to boil for a long time is also not encouraged. Such foods are high in sodium and nitrites, and while leaving them to cook in the broth may add to the flavour, it also ups the amount of unhealthy chemicals you end up consuming.

If you like your meatballs, try making fresh ones yourself using quality minced meat and herbs.

Mistake 3: I can take anything from the pot as long as it’s cooked 

Not if someone’s just put something raw into the pot! Many people often complain about getting the runs after having steamboat. One of the reasons could be this: They continue to eat from the pot while a piece of raw meat is still cooking in the broth. This is where it’s important to be “involved” and “observant” when you and your family gather for a hotpot. Pay close attention to what is cooking in the pot and don’t take anything out until the raw stuff has been cooked. This is also why you also should not throw all the meat and seafood into the pot at once. Cook only what you want to eat, a piece at a time.

Mistake 4: Bring on the sauces – the more, the merrier! 

We understand you may want to replicate the whole Hai Di Lao experience with a sauce and condiments bar but this is where the calories will all add up. Instead of using sauces that are packed with sugar, salt, and artificial flavourings, create a healthier option using fresh-cut chilli, fresh minced garlic, toasted sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, fresh coriander, and fresh spring onion. Mix and match these condiments to your liking, then add some soy sauce and sesame oil to create a crunchy, flavourful dip.

Mistake 5: It’s called “hotpot” for a reason – eat everything while it’s hot! 

Slurping down scalding soup and hot food might be “shiok” but it’s not going to do your health any favour. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that eating foods that are scalding hot has been linked to an increased risk of oesophageal cancer. No one’s rushing you to finish your meal in 15 minutes. While waiting for your food to cool down a little, relax and catch up with your family.

Mistake 6: Leave the noodles/rice in the soup so they can absorb the flavour  

If you want to finish your steamboat dinner with some rice porridge or noodles, don’t forget to skim off the scum and fat floating on the surface of the soup before cooking the carbs in it. The surface scum is made up of fat and coagulated protein so it’s not advisable to consume your soup or carbs with them. You should also not cook your rice or noodles in the soup for too long as it is now high in nitrites. Sure, have a little soup but try not to drink too much as it will add unnecessary burden on your kidneys to flush them out.