In the mood for steamboat (lẩu)

{Delicious Vietnam #15}


I admire people who take great photos of restaurants, or “on location”. I try, but often fail quite badly since it is out of my comfort zone as a amateur photographer. This time, though, I am trying to capture one of my favourite Vietnamese meals! The photo quality isn’t the greatest, but I hope you are in for the experience.

This post is for Delicious Vietnam #15, hosted by Lan from Angry Asian creation.

The Vietnamese loves shared meal, and naturally steamboat (or hot pot or lẩu) is one of the most popular forms. The concept is simple but utterly delicious. The central of the table is a hot simmering pot of stock. In that pot of gently boiling soup, a variety of raw ingredients are cooked at the table. The food is steamy hot, and each diner can choose to enjoy the ingredients that they like.

Steamboat (lẩu) is a winning dish for winter and the laziest form of entertaining guests I know of. At our home, we use an induction cooker, which my mother brought me a few years ago all the way from Vietnam. As far as history goes, I remember eating steamboat on mini gas cookers. I always had a weird feeling that they might explode, but that never happened! My in-laws used to have an electric hotpot cooker but that took 10-15 minutes to get the stock to boil. No one would have the patience to wait around that long. Not me anyway.

A good steamboat meal starts with good preparation of the stock. Some people use plain water for it, but I always take time to make my stock a few hours in advance by simmering chicken bones with spices (star anise, cardamom etc.) and dried mushroom. The end result should be a light broth, which will be flavoured even more as we cook our raw ingredients at the table.

Now, onto the raw ingredient galore! We can do a theme for steamboat – chicken only, seafood only or a mixed one. At home I normally opt for the mix style steamboat since preparing single theme hotpot requires more work.


We normally have thinly sliced beef tenderloin, which i like to marinade with some fish sauce and pepper, fresh fish slice (marinaded with salt, pepper and dill), tofu pieces, beef stripe (!), calamari rings, prawns, fresh Asian mushrooms. Oh, and we love our greens! I will have at least two types of Asian greens available (Garland Chrysanthemum is a firm favourite). Of course, we also have some noodles and sauces on the side, too. The list is never fixed and the selection depends on the freshest ingredient I can find for the day.


As we invite our guests to the table and get the broth boiling, I add fresh pineapple pieces to the pot. They make the stock lightly sour, sweet and refreshing. A lady who has a steamboat restaurant in Hanoi once told me that pineapple is a secret ingredient in making good stock. She surely knows her trade!

Now, it’s ready to start a welcoming dinner that warms up our bodies and hearts…

But it’s never a bad idea to munch on home-made fried spring rolls first :).


31 Responses to In the mood for steamboat (lẩu)

  1. chinmayie @ love food eat says:

    Beautiful Post! Your posts take me back to my hanoi trip every time! I didn't really have any steam boat when I was there as I couldn't find vegetarian only options but I remember seeing small groups on people sitting on the sidewalk and enjoying their meals together. I think this was the old streets(?) close to the lake.

  2. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    I experienced steamboat for the first time when I visited Vietnam, and I'll never forget how much fun it was to sit at a table in the street, cooking our own meal. I've never thought to do it at home!

  3. Kris Ngoei says:

    Apparently steam boat is not really that lazy way of entertaining guests considering how many hours we spend to prepare the broth and the vast range of ingredients…. which in my case, come to think about it, that could only happen in a blue moon when I am really in my best mood :-)

  4. Hannah says:

    What lucky guests you had/have! Love the touch of sweetness and sourness from the pineapple, and would love to see what Crysanthemum tastes like :)

  5. penny aka jeroxie says:

    I love steamboat as well. It seems that steamboat around SEA is pretty much the same :)

  6. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    What a wonderful meal! I'm a big fan of Vietnamese food.

  7. Fatbooo says:

    Love garland chrysanthemum (I call them "tang-o") for steamboats too! Back home, my folks would marinate the beef with fermented beancurd and sesame oil. :)

  8. Marnely Rodriguez says:

    yum, this looks delicious!

  9. Reese@SeasonwithSpice says:

    Hi Anh – love this post! It's always fun to host a steamboat party. The last steamboat I had was during Chinese New Year. There were so many rounds of steamboats that I thought I'd take a break from, but you just made me craving for steamboat again.

  10. Kalyn says:

    I had hot pot when I visited Hong Kong and I loved the communal cooking experience. Thanks for sharing; would love to try this.

  11. Elizabeth of AsianinAmericamag says:

    Oh I love steamboat! I only eat this at restaurants, but have always wanted to do this at home. Now that I read your post, I am going to try it! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Monet says:

    I think you did a great job with these photographs. I was drooling from start to finish. Thank you so much for sharing with me. I'm hungry now! I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and I'm wishing you a week full of love and laughter!

  13. Christine@Christine's Recipes says:

    I'm in, totally a big fan of steamboat. Everything is so fresh, cooked steamy hot. Wow, the best dish for cold days. Drooling right now. :p

  14. Nami @ Just One Cookbook says:

    I totally miss winter by looking at this delicious hot pot dinner. Looks soooo good!

  15. maameemoomoo says:

    What are u talking about Anh? The pics are fab! I can already imagine how wonderful it is to feast on this in winter.. :)

  16. Barbara says:

    This is the first time I've ever heard of Steamboat, Anh. Thanks so much for the information and description. I'd love to sit down at that table!

  17. Johanna GGG says:

    steamboat doesn't look lazy – it looks lovely and sociable and relaxed – I love your photos because these dishes need to be seen in context

  18. Faith says:

    What a lovely spread this is! I would love to try it, Anh!

  19. pickyin @ LifeIsGreat says:

    Agree with Sherie, I think the photos are mighty fine. The broth at the end of a steamboat session is like liquid gold, I'd slurp it all up after whipping in some eggs.

  20. The Cilantropist says:

    What a great post! I only had (chinese) hot pot for the first time last year and I LOVED it. I seriously could not believe I had been hot had it before, it was so incredible. I especially love the social aspect of eating, and all the fresh foods are so appealing too. You captured this so well!

  21. kankana says:

    I really want to experience this kind of meal.. I might me intimidated at first seeing all the raw meat … but something tells me i will enjoy it. The addition of pineapple to the broth is excellent.

  22. tigerfish says:

    Hardly see a steamboat table so neat! kekeke….

  23. Yasmeen says:

    This is such a lovely concept and a great way to bring people together.

  24. Maria says:

    Nice! I still haven't done the whole steamboat thing, but it looks like fun!

  25. Juliana says:

    Anh, I love the steamboat, specially during cold weather, it is a nice way to get the family or friends together.

  26. Little Corner of Mine says:

    Definitely making me missing the steamboat when I see your pictures. But summer here so a bit too warm for steamboat.

  27. Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul says:

    I love a good steamboat! And I think you've captured it beautifully Anh! I love how you explained each element and the process for laying it out. Thank you!

  28. shaz says:

    I love steam boat! But I've never had a version with pineapple pieces before. Need to ttry that, sounds delicious.

  29. angie says:

    yum! i love all kinds of lau. maybe except for lau de. heh. and this spread looks amazing!!

  30. Two fit and fun gals says:

    oh i luv steamboat! especially with chilli soup, quail eggs, and seafood balls yum :)

  31. Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) says:

    we just had our steamboat recently, very often we eating out..Thanks for sharing the broth tips with pineapple, can't wait to try out.

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