Musings on Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I love steamboat. I love everything about it, the steam opening all your pores and ruining your makeup; the decision as to what to put in the pot first; the trawling for cooked bits and making sure that your beef, lamb or fish is not overcooked; the mixing of the various dipping sauces and deciding what to dip into which sauce, and finally the aaahh, mmmm, grunts of satisfaction as one sips the broth at the end of the meal, each soupy mouthful after the other, steeped with all the delectable juices and nutrients of all the ingredients which have all but disappeared down our gullets.
Alas, steamboat is a meal I often avoid. Short of the occasional specially ordered treats at Overseas or East Ocean Menglembu where the chef is admonished to lay off the MSG and make the broth from scratch, all of the steamboat meals I have ever had have been MSG laden nightmares with most ingredients coming from food factories dishing out plastic-ky balls….fish, pork, beef, you name it. Or sticks, as in fish sticks, sausage on sticks, etc.
To my delight, a newly-opened steamboat restaurant called Treasure Pot Steamboat is putting an end to my nightmare on steamboats.
Located a few doors down from Sushi Zento on Festival Walk, this is a well decorated air-conditioned restaurant with both booth seating as well as large round tables for up to twelve people. Heating plates are all induction which do not contribute heat nor gas smells to the whole space and the bigger tables have two induction plates on each table which makes cooking and reaching much more accessible. If there is one criticism to be levied at the design, it’s the noise level which when the restaurant is full, can reach very high decibels, making conversation impossible. So my advice if noise drives you to distraction as it does me, is to go after 9pm when the main dinner crowd would have thinned a little.
The food though is worth sacrificing some of your hearing for though. The first step in dining at Treasure Pot is to order the soup. Unlike other steamboat restaurants where the soup is free, one will have to pay for the soup base which is replenished as much as is needed. If this is the only way to avoid MSG laden broths, then I applaud the move.
There is a choice of the Special Bone Pot (braised from pork bones) at RM20; the Chonqqing Chicken Pot which is my favourite, a spicy broth with special Szechuan peppers or Ma Lat and the fiery dry chillies. RM48 large and RM28 medium; or the Imperial Pork Stomach with Chicken at RM28. There is even a Special Fish Pot for the non meat eaters at RM25. Mixed Pots can be ordered at RM38 per pot.
There is a wide selection of ingredients for the hotpot with a checklist to choose from. Noteworthy in the meat section are the beef, mutton and pork slices, paper thin and cooks instantly. I particularly liked the pork slices which were too fatty for some, coming from the belly but perfect for my fat-loving taste buds – RM9 per portion. Must haves also include the homemade pork and beef balls RM8, although the factory prepared pork balls were pretty delectable RM7. Other items which I didn’t sample were the abalone slices, mussels, Taiwanese sausage and pork kidneys at RM8 and squid at RM9. Noodles are plentiful ranging between RM3-4 including Fish Meat Noodles at RM7.
Seafood is where it gets interesting. There is a row of fish tanks on the right as one comes into the restaurant. Here one can order the fish of the day at market prices. On the day I was there, there were three types of live fish. The regular live Sek Pan or Garupa was going for RM95 per kilo while the special Loong Fu Pan with vivid black bands across a white body was priced at RM120 per kilo. The night I was there, another table had ordered half of the Sek Pan and I was offered the other half which I accepted. The fish proved to be firm fleshed and utterly delectable.
Other seafood on offer included live medium prawns at RM90 per kilo and our half kilo satisfied our table of six. These prawns were irresistibly sweet and when cooked to the right degree of doneness, was heaven in a carapace. Fresh scallops are available occasionally and like all live seafood, subject to market prices. The standard live fish which is very reasonably priced is the red and black Tilapia – RM23 per kilo.
Needless to say, vegetables are plentiful and just choosing from the list can be quite a task. Ranging from between RM4-6 per plate, we found ourselves wolfing down the likes of lotus pods, enoki mushrooms, choi sum, seaweed, tofu, winter melon and bitter gourd. And then came the noodles. Followed by the utterly delectable broth.
This is what I would call a singularly satisfying meal.
Treasure Pot Steamboat#2-20, 21 Festival Walk @ IpohJalan Medan Ipoh 1, Medan Ipoh Bistari.Tel: 05 543 9423Manager Nick Cheong: 017 690 8919Business hours: 5pm-1am. Closed Mondays.GPS: N 04 37.1 52 E 101 07. 082