It was an impromptu idea to have lunch with everyone in our office before we break for the Lunar New Year. And being the “Auntie” in the office, I took the lead and set team AM Collective to prepare an epic lunch for 12 pax. With NOTHING but a microwave in the office, we gave ourselves a huge challenge. Well, we are professional creative problem solvers for our clients and partners, so this is small fry lah!
After a two-hour shopping spree at FairPrice, we threw an epic lunch with BBQ steamboat in our office. (The word ‘impossible’ is not in our dictionary.) If you have plans to throw a reunion gathering at home or in the office too, steamboat is the easiest and quickest meal one can get, be it for two or 20 people. Here are some tips from our own epic steamboat lunch experience.
#1. Pick the right electric hot pot
The electric hot pot is probably going to be used only once a year (unless you are like us, who were hooked on the hotpot lunch and is planning to do it more often). However, picking the right one is important for an enjoyable meal with family and friends. There were more than 10 choices for us, and it took us a while to compare and decide which one to get. We’re glad we made the right choice in the end.
#2. Pick the non-perishables first
One thing we did wrong during our shopping spree was to fill up our cart with the fresh, chilled and frozen food first. We were pushing a trolley full of fresh perishable food around the supermarket for too long before picking up other necessities like disposable cutleries, containers and condiments. So yes, pick up the chilled fresh items last.
#3. Fuss-free soup base
My foolproof method for the steamboat soup base is to mix water, liquid chicken stock (or prepacked soup) with the liquid from the canned pacific clams and abalone. Pour them all into the hot pot and bring the liquid to boil. Then throw in some seafood and corn on the cob. The first batch of soup may not be as flavourful, but as the cooking gets more intense, the soup gets really delicious. Whenever you run out of soup in the pot, just add in more chicken stock and water. Make sure the soup is boiling before you drink or eat anything from the pot!
#4. Have variety rather than quantity
Pick different types of food instead of having too much of a type. Get fresh vegetables, seafood, some fresh/thawed meat to marinate, chilled and frozen food such as sliced lamb, beef, scallops, snow crab legs etc. Filling your table with different colours of food makes it more attractive and appealing to your guests. It makes for great top-down photos too.
#5. Don’t overbuy, plan ahead
You know how one almost tends to overbuy and stock up too much stuff during the festive seasons. Know the number of pax joining the meal, and make an estimate on the amount of food needed. When buying the foodstuff, refrain from adding extra packets or portions into your cart just because you think your friends will love it and wanna eat more.
A safe estimate is to have just one pack of everything you plan to have and not exceed more than two of each food item.
#6. Plating and table setting
This may sound bimbotic, but it was really fun doing it together with family and friends. Pay a little attention in making the food look nice during your preparation. Yes, you may think most of the food for steamboat are raw or frozen, how nice can the food look, right? Well, with the right containers and careful unwrapping of the food, your dining table will look great. Just think about the sharing and postings online from your guests, saying how beautiful and awesome their meal was with you.
#7. Prepare shopping and cooler bags
Make your post-shopping spree simpler with shopping bags and cooler bags! We were not prepared for it and had to buy them that day. (I’ve got a lot of these bags at home loh!) Cooler bags are super useful if you are planning a meal in your office. We got some packs of ice from the seafood counter and kept our chilled food cool without the fridge while we prepared the food.
#8. Shop at FairPrice Xtra
When you have totally nothing and little time to prepare, your best bet is to buy everything at a single stop. There are only a couple of mega supermarkets in Singapore that will get you everything in one cart. Our choice was FairPrice Xtra because I’m an NTUC member lah; I get to earn LinkPoints and add on to my annual rebate!
There are seven FairPrice Xtra outlets located around Singapore, you should be able to find one near you.
If you have a minute to spare, here’s a fun video we did while we prepared our lunch. You might just get some inspiration for your next epic reunion.
And here’s one more taken by Alvin while we were half-way through that epic lunch. A mannequin challenge no less.