Steamboat is the name of a communal style of eating which is popular in China and Southeast Asia. Steamboat is also the name of the pot used to cook the meal.
Of course, Steamboat is an English word, and other terms are used in other languages. It is similar to the western Fondue, but you cook the food in broth rather than oil, cheese, or chocolate.
I learned while researching for this review that the name Steamboat came from Chinese people mispronouncing 'Steam Bowl'.
Steamboat (or Hot Pot) originated in Northern China (or from the Mongolians). Originally, a pot with a chimney was used to cook over the hot coals of a campfire.
In modern times, there are several variations of Steamboat Pots. Some don't have a chimney, but have a divider which allows people to choose between two different kinds of broth (one usually spicy and one bland). In Thailand, Tom Yum soup would normally be used as the broth for Steamboat.
In Southeast Asia, some restaurants specialize in Steamboat Buffet. A Steamboat pot is put on a burner on your table (usually round) and you request ingredients from the menu until you can't eat any more. Typical ingredients are mainly fresh seafood mixes, various vegetables, noodles, and meats. Sometimes eggs are also added. I especially like Coca Thai Steamboat Restaurant on Orchard Road in Singapore.
Although Steamboat is more frequently eaten in restaurants, I bought a Steamboat pot in Singapore when I knew I was going to live abroad. I mainly use it for special occasions such as Chinese New Year, special birthdays, or when the weather is extremely cold.
I bought my Steamboat pot at a restaurant supply house. It is 18-8 Stainless Steel, it was reasonably priced, and it has a chimney (as I wanted). Normally, I use it on the table with a small propane burner (see photo, and wait longingly for a future review).
In reality, cooking Steamboat is quite easy. It mostly involves shopping and cutting the ingredients into bite-size pieces. The cooking is very fast and done by the guest. People use their chopsticks and a small strainer to place and retrieve their food. Clean-up is very easy, too.
Steamboat is flexible. People can arrive at different times and eat either a small or large amount. People can socialize while cooking their Steamboat meal.
I am very happy with my Steamboat.