On my last trip to London, we were in Chinatown doing some shopping and looking for some interesting Chinese food. We had come across this restaurant before. So this time we decided that we want to give this a try.
Shuang Shuang is a Steam boat restaurant. Steam boat is a popular type of cooking and serving food. The Chinese love this as it is part of their culture – communal eating.
A group of people , usually family members or friends will sit around a large table. In Chinese dining, the table is usually for about 8 to 10 people. However, as the size of family has become smaller, we now have less people around the table. Having said that, we Chinese usually love having steam boat during reunion dinners like during Chinese New Year, or other occasions where we gather together to enjoy each others’ company. This atmosphere is known as ‘Lau Juak’, or happy festivities, warmth, …er, actually, there is no one exact word to describe it. It means an occasion that is full of activities and fun and full of warmth. So, steam boat is usually associated with family and friends. If you get invited to one, you should be happy to know that you are warmly accepted by your host. Shuang shuang, by the way means relax, enjoyable and happy.
The usual way of eating steam boat is to have a pot of soup or broth in the centre of the table. In the olden days, this would be fired by charcoal and a special adapted stove which holds the charcoals and the soup would be used. The soup base can be anything from clear chicken soup to Thai tom yam soup to curry or whatever new innovative ideas that you have. If one does not have a special steam boat, then a pot on a table-top will do. Just like what we had the last Chinese New Year.
Diners just help themselves to whatever they want and dip the food in the pot to cook. You sort of cook your own dinner. So the flavour of the soup will get more and more of the flavour of what you put inside it. We usually start with food that takes a longer time to cook like meat, and then followed by more delicate food like seafood, tou foo and vegetables. The important point is to ensure that the food is thoroughly cooked before ladling up. Otherwise you might get a runny tummy after that.
Some people like steam boat is because the soup gets tastier as we go along. Others dislike it as they find that everything taste the same. This is so true if you dislike what is put into the pot if your fellow diner likes it. So I think this one pot per person concept is perfect – you get what you like, no arguments!!
Coming back to the restaurant, the portions are for one person. You can have a few varieties of soups and you can select the food that you want to have. There are 4 types of broths and starts at £7.00 per head. The hot fiery one is the Mala, then there is Tom Yum, Black Bird ( which is black chicken soup base, a popular and healthy soup), and Temple Brew, which is vegetarian.
The whole concept is like Yo! Sushi. The meat and vegetables are prepared in individual servings. You sit along the table and you have a pot in front of you. The ingredients come around on the conveyor belt and you just take what you want. There were meat, seafood, noodles and rice, vegetables. You pick what you like. You can even order a set as there are some special set menu if you fancy. You can select the types of dips that you want.
Snacks and desserts are ordered separately. The plates are colour coded and you know what your bill will be when you finish. However, who keeps tabs of the plates? They also have a range of Chinese drinks.
There is also a complete ‘instruction manual’ to help you to understand the function of all the utensils, like how to control the temperature of the pot, and a list of the ladles, bowls. cups, controls, etc, etc,. All of the instructions are totally unnecessary if you are Chinese and know how it works. However, it makes interesting reading and will probably confuse you if you try to make sense of it.
The restaurant was not busy when we went there for lunch as it as just about noon. The waiters looked like they were still busy trying to set up dishes, or just waking up, the service was slow. Later on, it got better as I suppose the staff realised that they need to hurry up.
Finally we ordered, and the broths and the paraphernalia was laid out. Since we knew what to so with them, we went straight away to cook and finish our food.
There was also a special chef’s recommendation by a famous British Chef. When I asked if that chef owned the restaurant, I was told that the chef’s recommendation was a special recommendation by the chef, nothing to do with the ownership of the restaurant. Actually, the owner is Thai.
The food was not out standing. It was ok. The bill for the 2 of us came to £53.21 including VAT. No liquor, only 1 plum Iced tea and tap water. Good for novelty value.
Shuang Shaung website: click here.