Travel Features > The Gastronome's Guide To Kuching

Introducing the Steamboat

Anybody who has spent more than a day or two in Kuching cannot fail to have noticed busy restaurants packed with groups of people seated around bubbling cauldrons. Although they appear to be re-enacting the witches scene from Macbeth, their behaviour is in fact entirely innocent. They are merely enjoying one of Sarawak's favourite specialities, the Steamboat.

What is a Steamboat?
The Steamboat is a simple, healthy and delicious cooking method found throughout China and Southeast Asia. It is sometimes referred to as fondue chinoise. It consists of a large cast-iron cooking pot and some kind of heat source, usually a gas ring.
 
How Does it Work?
The steamboat is simplicity itself. The cooking pot is filled with water, and herbs and spices are added to give flavour. The water is heated with a gas burner, and when it is boiling the main ingredients are added, and cooked briefly until they are ready.
 
What Ingredients are Used?
This method is ideal for cooking many types of fish, prawns, shellfish, glass noodles (tang hoon), leafy vegetables and pre-cooked ingredients such as fish and prawn-balls.
 
Why is the Steamboat so Popular?
Two reasons. Firstly, taste: the ingredients are quickly and freshly cooked, exactly the way you like them, and as the cooking water absorbs the flavour of the ingredients, it transforms itself into a delicious seafood soup. Secondly, you cook it yourself, so it's enormous fun.
 
What Makes Kuching Steamboats So Different ?
  • Most places have an all-you-can-eat policy, where you can help yourself to as many ingredients as you like, as many times as you like.
  • Kuching steamboats are fitted with a barbecue plate, so you can barbecue delicious marinated beef, lamb and fish to accompany your steamboat.
  • Value for money - generally around RM 12 to RM 15 per person.
  • It's a great way to celebrate birthdays, family anniversaries, etc.
  • The friendly atmosphere and pleasant surroundings (you're in Sarawak, remember!).
 
Where Can I Try It?
There are good steamboat restaurants all over town. Some of the most popular places in the city centre include Hornbill's Corner Cafe (Ban Hock Road), Red Eastern Cafe (behind Hornbill's) and the Riverside Majestic Hotel (unusual Thai-style steamboat). Most seafood restaurants will be happy to prepare a steamboat to order.
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