Saturday, May 31, 2008



I almost chose “Steamboat” rather than “Hopscotch”as the metaphor for this blog.

No, not that steamboat as in the “SS” that preceded the names of ships in the days of steamships.

It would be a reference to the Malaysian cuisine called “Steamboat”.

Steamboat is a meal in which the participants sit around a special cooking pot of boiling stock placed in the center of the table, usually round, and add from a large selection of items as the meal progresses.

In Steamboats the old expression: "Too many cooks spoil the broth" doesn't apply. Everyone is a cook in this convivial cuisine.

It would be a good metaphor for a blog like this: a broth of thoughts, in which the ingredients to be tossed in are ideas, stories, pictures, reflections, memories served up by travel, family, friends, work, current events...anything interesting life has to offer. You are invited. Let the feast begin.

The Steamboat in the picture below was enjoyed with treasured friends in Penang, Malaysia, who introduced me to "Steamboats" and have treated me to several delicious ones.

At a Steamboat restaurant the customer checks off the items and portion sizes desired on a long form. This form immediately took my memory back forty-plus years, to my very early childhood in Trinidad. It seemed exactly like the forms we used then to list our items at the “steam laundries” common at that time. Similar even to the type of paper.

My host got me an unused form to take back to the US as a souvenir, and I have reproduced part of it below.


Fauziah Ismail said...

Hi Louis
Steamboat is I think the healthiest way of eating although your cholesterol level can go up if you take too much of the seafood. I wonder if you tried the Yong Tau Foo while you were here? It’s another of the soup-based dishes that I like very much.
As you would have found out, eating is Malaysians’ favourite pastime and we try to find the best food outlet for the food we like to eat.

puteri hang li poh said...

Hi Louis,
I prefer "Hopscotch" ("Teng-teng" in Malay) to "Steamboat". The latter gives an impression of heaty, steamy, sweaty inputs. While 'hopscotch' could be a wonderful patchwork of life's happenings :-)

Pak Idrus said...

louis, steamboat is the way to go when you are in a group. Great food that everyone could enjoy without much fuss. Everyone get to be the chef and enjoy doing it, with plenty of time to enjoy the yarn around the dinner table. Another kind of makan the Malaysia way.

As for the title of your blog, agreed with Putri that Hopscotch or Teng Teng is the proper choice for a blog with one chef. We all know too well what too many cook would do...

Have a nice day.

louis said...

Since "eating is Malaysians' favourite pastime" Fauziah, it's no wonder I fit in so well in Malaysia! My mother, exasperated because i was always asking for something to eat, used to tell me that I was "born hungry". I always return from Malaysia a kilo or two heavier :)

"Yong Tau Foo" rings a bell. I am sure I have eaten it. Is it that noodle soup that's full of vegetables and with an egg in it?

louis said...

I like the sound of "teng-teng" very much, Puteri Hang Li Poh.

Given your most interesting insight into the connotations of "Steamboat" as a title for a blog, I am glad I avoided the big faux pas it would have been if I had chosen it as my title. Thanks a lot for alerting me to that. You have saved me from the censors :)

louis said...

Pak Idrus, your characterization of the typical steamboat gettogether fits perfectly my many such delightful experiences with friends in Malaysia.

Puteri Hang Li Poh's comment re the title of my blog was very witty. Please see my response above.

Plan to phone you in a short while.

Rita Ho said...

Hi Louis ... I have not been blog-hopping for a while and enjoyed catching up on yours.

Steamboat is one of my favorite meals and it is suitable for the Seattle weather. I cook it often using stove -chaffing dish combination. Perhaps we should have one when Pak Idrus is in town with his family.

louis said...

Rita, your idea for a steamboat with Pak Idrus is terrific.

Many years ago, when we still lived in California, we brought back a traditional steamboat utensil from Penang. It was the kind with a cone-shaped brazier for charcoal in the center. A friend had found it in a small shop in a Pre-War shoplot building in George Town.

It was one of the items we had to shed when we downsized and moved to Seattle. As you pointed out it would be ideal in this climate. Wish we still had it.

Rita Ho said...

Louis ... I never got around to owning that utensil. Steamboat was always a dining-out affair when I was the host. Otherwise, guests would have gone home disappointed! Did you get a chance to use the electrical or gas version? Most families back home have one these days.

My stove pot and chaffing dish works quite well here and my cooking has improved. I'll be using them for the meal with Pak Idrus. :)

louis said...

Embarrassed to say, never tried making a steamboat myself. Gives me a convenient reason for visiting Malaysia :)

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