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In every steamboat, the kind of stock to be used is important in bringing out the flavours of the ingredients. Too strong in flavor and it can be a tad too savoury and salty after all the ingredients has been cooked. Too bland, and it does little to complement the flavor of the ingredients. And especially for guests, you never know for certain if everyone can truly appreciate your favourite spicy Ma La Tang or herbal and rich Ginseng Chicken Soup. But for a soup base that almost everyone can enjoy, here are three recommendations.

1. Chicken Broth
This is one traditional favourite that will be very familiar. Easily available in boxed cartons or cans in the supermarket, the flavours are generally clear, with a savoury essence of chicken throughout. But if you want to prepare it fresh at home, all you need is 1 whole chicken carcass with 1 carrot, 1 large onion and 1 whole garlic peeled together with 2 teaspoons of salt in about 2 litres water and leave to boil for 2 hours, and strained.

2. Tom Yum Soup
Not as extremely tongue numbing spicy like the Ma La Tang, a Tom Yum base is more acceptable and its tangy aftertaste whets the appetite quickly. Basic tom yum broths can be quickly purchased cubed from the grocers. Making it from scratch will require the use of plenty of herbs such as Kaffir lime leaves, blue ginger, lemongrass and a basic seafood stock.

3. Pork Bone Broth
Pork Bone Broth might be a new idea for some but its umami rich taste coupled with dissolved collagen and silky texture makes it also an ideal choice for steamboats. A bit more work is required as it is not readily available but it can be made at home. Ingredients required would be 2kg pork bones, 2 carrots, 1 whole garlic, 3 celery sticks, 50 grams ginger, ground white pepper and salt to season and taste. Leave to boil with water covering all ingredients for about 4 hours adding water if necessary. Strain and its ready for the hotpot.

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