Wednesday 17 August 2011

Sweating Over a Steamboat

Steamboats, it must be said, aren't traditionally eaten in high summer. Bubbling pots of broth are set upon a hot plate or a gas burner with piles of thinly sliced meats, fish and vegetables for you to dip in the broth, fish out and eat. Not really conducive to the summer sun, but then we don't get much of that anyway.

We used to go for steamboat a lot when I was a child. One particular memory I have is of gazing down at some sort of shellfish and poking it with a toothpick, watching it quiver, before promptly dumping it in the broth. I was never destined to be a vegetarian.

Four of us, plus my parents took a trip to Little Lamb in Chinatown for dinner one night. If I'm honest I'm surprised my parents agreed to it. My dad always muttered that he couldn't understand why anyone would go to a restaurant to pay to cook their own food, but it's all in the fun of it. We were given a tick sheet and for 23 of your finest pounds per head, you get to choose 5 dishes each .

Given we were 6, we chose 30. Firstly, a huge bowl, split into two, yin-yang style. In one side, a spicy, oily broth, the other was a mild, mushroom stock. And then the plates started coming. Wafer-thin slices of pork, beef and lamb were dipped lazily into the broth until just cooked. Fish balls of all type, our favourites being the Fuzhou (stuffed with minced pork) slopped in to bob around. An onslaught of prawns, squid, sweet meaty crabs, various vegetables joined, and soon we couldn't move for the plates.

My favourites? The 'ham', which as we suspected, was Spam (stop grimacing - I bloody love Spam). Who would have thought boiled Spam would be so tasty? It was. Those Fuzhou fish balls and the crab came in at a close second, as well as the turnip, which was daikon, that soaked up the flavours beautifully. Mongolian flat bean noodles were wonderfully slippery, and none of us escaped without splattered selves - do not, under any circumstances, wear white. Pak choi and lettuce were refreshing in simplicity, and the only real duds were the fried gluten which were much like deep fried bread puffs, and a really tough plate of beef tripe.

For £33 a head with a few beers and service, it really was a feast - 30 dishes! 30! - and although yes, you are cooking the dinner yourself, it's a fun way to share a meal with friends. Highly recommended; but you will emerge stinking of meat.

Little Lamb

72 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 6NA

Tel: 020 7287 8078

Little Lamb on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Been a while since I've been to Little Lamb. I love the fish balls, crab legs and, of course, the noodles. But I am a bad Chinese in not being a fan of the Spam!

Going With My Gut said...

HURRAH! Love Little Lamb. Although, bugger, looks like prices have gone up a touch from £20 pax.

Yeah I do think of hotpot here as seasonal winter food. Although I get laughed at since everyone knows I would be happy to eat it (and I do) in 33 deg C 100% humidity weather in Singapore on the pavement...

Need to go again soon.


Anonymous said...

i liked it when i went, but i couldn't help feeling that after 5 minutes, everything tastes the same, no matter what you're dunking in the broth..

Graphic Foodie said...

That looks great and a fun dining experience too. Never come across a steamboat but will have to hunt one out. And yes, perfect for the British "summer". Brrrr.

Gin and Crumpets said...

I love steamboats, but I seem to have let years slip by since I last had one. Perhaps it's the memory of unwittingly fishing out a thoroughly over-cooked strip of intestine the last time I was at one. No one warned me they had slipped intestine into the pot, the swines.

Sharmila said...

Little Lamb is my favourite of the hot pot places I've tried in London (Red N'Hot, Chilli Cool). I like the fact you can select what you want, rather than getting a pre-set selection. Also love the spam and also the choice of noodles, which taste so good when dunked in that tasty stock at the end!