Seven great places to eat steamed hotpot in Hong Kong

The focus is on seafood, and ingredients are often cooked dish by dish at the table on a portable cooker or stacked up in steel containers with holes so everything steams together

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 6:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 10:42am

Going out for hotpot used to be a hands-on affair. You’d choose ingredients from a long list, pick a broth to simmer them in, then spend the meal cooking your own meal.

Now, though, steamed hotpot seems to be the rage.

This type of hotpot got its start in Guangdong. The steamer pots would be covered with a conical straw hat (which, unlike metal, absorbs and dissipates the steam so it doesn’t drip back onto the ingredients) and used to cook river fish and chicken. With its move south to Hong Kong, the focus seems to be more on seafood.

Some of these places cook the ingredients dish by dish at the table, while others are more efficient, stacking them up in steel containers with holes so everything steams together. A dish containing soup or congee is at the bottom, collecting all the steamed seafood juices.

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When it opened in February, The Seafood Kitchen in Kennedy Town was busy every night. The decor is laid-back and casual, with wooden tables and bench seating, while the walls are decorated with extra large photographs of sea creatures, and glass tanks hold live seafood.

Janet Tse Sui-san, manager of The Seafood Kitchen, explains the owner is a wholesale seafood importer, and so the ingredients vary week to week according to what’s in season.

The selection is extensive, with various types of crab, oysters, abalone, geoduck, lobster, sea whelk, mantis shrimp, scallops, razor clams and fish from countries such as Japan, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

“Most of our customers come in pairs, and order say abalone, lobster and the soup,” Tse says.

There can be as many as nine layers in the steamed hotpot, placed on a portable induction cooker on the table. Tse explains the seafood is layered according to the cooking times, with the fastest-cooking ones, such as abalone and clams, which need only about 10 minutes to steam, on top,with crabs, which take much longer, at the bottom.

Tse stresses the seafood is steamed without marinade “because they are best cooked this way to retain their flavours. Some restaurants marinate the seafood if it isn’t fresh,” she says.

As the fresh seafood is steamed, the juices drip down to the bottom, where they are caught in the seafood or meat soup base chosen by the customer. As with conventional hotpot, sipping the broth rich with the flavour of all the cooked ingredients is, to many, the best part of the meal.

Despite an average price per person of HK$800, The Seafood Kitchen seems to be a success, and opened its second location in Causeway Bay three months ago.

Steam Hotpot, which opened in Jordan a year ago, focuses on steaming the ingredients one batch at a time. Manager Henry Lam says steaming is the best way to cook seafood.

“When you cook seafood in a hotpot, the seafood loses its natural sweetness,” he says.

Guests can choose from different set menus of seven kinds of seafood, such as geoduck, lobster, abalone, clams, prawns, oysters, scallops, squid, bamboo clams and crab. The ingredients are sourced from Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Canada and Australia, depending on availability. As a result diners must book about two days in advance to ensure enough seafood is ordered per table.

When you cook seafood in a hotpot, the seafood loses its natural sweetness
Henry Lam

Meats are also available for steaming; the chicken is marinated, but other types, including Iberico pork and wagyu beef, are not. They are usually steamed with vegetables such as oyster mushrooms, black ear fungus and corn.

Lam explains the sliced meats are a bit thicker than those used for regular hotpot, otherwise they would be easily overcooked. After the meats are steamed they can be dipped into sauces seasoned with spring onions and coriander.

Each table has a handy guide to let diners know how long they should cook their food – just 80 seconds for scallops and abalone, while lobster needs four minutes, and Iberico pork needs three.

The juices from the array of steamed food aren’t wasted – they drip down into a pot below where congee has been slowly simmering the whole evening. The end result is a flavourful rice porridge – if diners still have enough room to finish it.

In Tsim Sha Tsui, The Drunken Pot is best known for its hotpot featuring sake bombs – or sake-flavoured soup base – and when the hip restaurant opened, owner Vivien Shek Pui-lam wanted to give diners the option to steam their food.

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“You can do it at the same time as cooking food in the hotpot and steaming is the best way to preserve the flavours of seafood and more nutritious, too,” she says. “You can even steam the xiao long bao yourself.”

The xiao long bao come in a rainbow of colours to reflect their creative fillings such as black truffle, crab roe, squid ink, and lobster.

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Shek says the induction stove was custom made for the restaurant to fit seamlessly into the tabletops. In addition to the menu of ingredients for conventional hotpot, The Drunken Pot has a separate list of seafood, meat and vegetables suitable for steaming.

Shek says the seafood is marinated, some with XO sauce or black bean sauce, or just seasoned with garlic and spring onions. Diners use a tabletop timer so they don’t overcook the ingredients.

The Seafood Kitchen

18 Catchick Street, Kennedy Town, tel: 2556 8555

Golden Jubilee House, 389-399 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2556 8555

Steam Hotpot

Flat A, 2/F Cheung King Mansion, 144 Austin Road, Jordan, tel: 9421 4322/6890 9728

The Drunken Pot

Shop 1, 2/F, 8 Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2321 9038

Boat Dweller Steam Hot Pot Specialist

196 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2527 8883

Steam Seafood Hotpot Restaurant

1/F The Bauhinia, 5-9 Observatory Court, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2898 2731/2898 2751

Bama Steam Hot Pot Seafood Restaurant

1/F South East Mansion, 77 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2739 1636

Natural Taste Steam Seafood

Shop 1 & 5, 1/F Royal Jubilee, 88 San Shing Avenue, Shek Wu Hui, Sheung Shui, tel: 2639 0238

The Seafood Kitchen

18 Catchick Street, Kennedy Town, tel: 2556 8555

Golden Jubilee House, 389-399 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2556 8555

Steam Hotpot

Flat A, 2/F Cheung King Mansion, 144 Austin Road, Jordan, tel: 9421 4322/6890 9728

The Drunken Pot

Shop 1, 2/F, 8 Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2321 9038

Boat Dweller Steam Hot Pot Specialist

196 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2527 8883

Steam Seafood Hotpot Restaurant

1/F The Bauhinia, 5-9 Observatory Court, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2898 2731/2898 2751

Bama Steam Hot Pot Seafood Restaurant

1/F South East Mansion, 77 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2739 1636

Natural Taste Steam Seafood

Shop 1 & 5, 1/F Royal Jubilee, 88 San Shing Avenue, Shek Wu Hui, Sheung Shui, tel: 2639 0238