The tantalizing aroma of a perfectly cooked roast beef fills the air as it is carved with precision on a serving line. This exquisite dish, known as the steamboat, has a fascinating history and is reserved for the most special of occasions. Join us on a culinary journey to discover the origins and preparation of this luxurious delicacy.
Unraveling the Origins of the Steamboat
Throughout history, roasted meats have been a culinary staple in numerous cultures. However, in the Mariana Islands, fish, turtles, birds, and bats were the primary sources of protein for the indigenous CHamoru people. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish in the 17th century that cattle, pigs, deer, and perhaps chicken were introduced to the archipelago.
The CHamoru people, known for consuming meat primarily on special occasions, prepared their beef in stews or soups called kådo. Yet, they also embraced the art of roasting or baking meat, likely inspired by the Spanish’s diverse beef dishes. During Spanish times, feral cattle roamed the islands, but it was only when the Germans colonized the region that these cattle became government property. Despite attempts to establish a commercial cattle industry, most of the cattle were utilized for draft purposes, milking, or riding.
The Evolution of Roast Beef
The American families residing in Guam before World War II played a significant role in shaping the preparation of roast beef as we know it today. Simple rubs of salt and pepper, followed by roasting in an oven, became a popular method introduced by these families. Additionally, CHamoru men enlisted in the US Navy as mess attendants may have brought their newfound meat preparation techniques home.
With the advent of indoor kitchens equipped with gas or electric ovens after World War II, the popularity of roast beef surged. It became a prominent feature on festive tables, alongside hams and turkeys. The steamboat round, however, remains reserved for the most extraordinary celebrations, often gracing the carving station at large wedding receptions or banquets.
Crafting the Perfect Steamboat
The steamboat is a round of beef that is roasted whole and carved on a serving line, symbolizing luxury and prestige. This exceptional dish is reserved for momentous occasions such as wedding receptions, banquets, and buffets. It is important to note that the steamboat round should not be mistaken for the Asian steamboat or hotpot.
Derived from the cut of beef known as the round, the steamboat encompasses the top round, bottom round, eye of round, the knuckle, and the rump. These cuts represent the muscles surrounding the femur or thigh/shank bone. The steamboat can be presented either bone-in or boneless, depending on preference.
A Carving Station Fit for Royalty
During festive gatherings, the steamboat round takes center stage on its own dedicated “carving station.” A skilled chef expertly carves the steamboat for each diner, allowing them to select their preferred level of doneness, from rare to well-done. You may find other luxurious meats such as roasted pig, ham, and turkey nearby, forming a delightful ensemble of flavors and textures.
Experience the Elegance of the Steamboat
Indulging in the steamboat is an experience reserved for special moments, offering a tantalizing combination of rich flavors and tender textures. Its history, rooted in the fusion of cultures, adds depth to its allure. Celebrate life’s milestones with this iconic dish, honoring tradition while savoring the deliciousness it brings.
By Dominica Tolentino
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