Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat

Special thanks to Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat for extending this food review invitation.

Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat (奇香铜碳鱼头火锅) is one of the popular steamboat restaurants at Raja Uda, even though it has not been around for as long as others. The premise was built from the ground up because the preceding structure was dilapidated and unsuitable.
Considering the hot weather nowadays, the air-conditioned ambience is certainly welcoming. There are tables of various sizes for as few as 2, to as many as 12.
According to the proprietors, the intention is to recreate dining experience that has been lost over the generations. The cornerstone of this concept is the steamboat pot. While most restaurants use steel or aluminium versions, Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat uses pots made from copper.
Another aspect that sets Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat apart from other restaurants is the use of briquette charcoal as the fuel for cooking. Made from sawdust, briquette charcoal burns cleanly with hardly any smoke or soot.
Charcoal is added into the central chamber, where it burns steadily due to the convective flow of air from the bottom to the top. To reduce the rate of burning (i.e. power), simply adjust the spout opening to constrict the flow of air.
The restaurant also has special steamboat pots with "imperial" design. These are usually used for birthday celebrations. As copper utensils are getting rarer nowadays, the proprietors have to custom-order them from a supplier in China.
Utensils is only one part of the overall dining experience. Another aspect is the soup base for steamboat. At Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat, the soup is cooked using the heads of grouper (石斑鱼). After stewing overnight, the soup is infused with savoriness of fish, making it so flavorful that some customers just want to enjoy the soup with plain rice!
The rich soup also contains cabbage (包菜), seaweed (紫菜) and tofu skin (腐皮). Evaporated milk (炼奶) and taro (芋头) are also added just before serving. Some people prefer to omit taro, but I think its starchy texture is also enjoyable.
For customers' convenience, Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat has several steamboat sets to choose from. The basic set starts from RM88.00 for 2-3 persons, while the largest one is RM238.00 for 10-12 persons. Today's meal is the RM138.00 set for 4-6 persons.
Each set comes with a complimentary plate of Yam Samosa (芋泥角) as appetizer, as well as chrysanthemum tea (菊花). The amount is proportional to the number of diners.
As far as ingredients are concerned, Grouper Fish (石斑鱼) is the main highlight. The thin slices make short work of cooking. I personally prefer to have grouper fish partially cooked, as the flesh still retains its lovely texture.
If you are a fan of red meat like pork, you should enjoy some Sliced Meat (肉片). Moving forward, the restaurant will be introducing more types of meat like mutton and lamb.
From the marine kingdom, there are fresh Prawns (中虾) and Scallops (扇贝) to satisfy your palate.
Also included are Fish Balls (鱼丸), Meat Balls (肉丸), Shrimp Dumplings (虾饺) and Eggs (鸡蛋).
Taiwan Sausage (台湾香肠) is also appealing to people who love its sweetened minced meat.
Fish Filament (鱼柱) does a good job in withholding its own flavor despite being overwhelmed by the rich soup.
The set meal also includes Baby Corn (玉米仔), Golden Mushrooms (金针菇), Button Mushrooms (蘑菇), Sliced Abalone (鲍鱼片) and Tang O (茼蒿).
The steamboat set is usually enough to pacify every stomach, but there are occasions where there is a tiny bit of vacant space left. This is where the à la carte menu comes in. Some of these items are not included in the steamboat sets.
Deep Fried Fish (炸鱼, RM19.90) is one such example. I never thought I'll say this, but I somehow like this more than the fresh version.
I think the Minced Meat (肉碎, RM4.90) is also nice. Just like fish, I prefer not to overcook pork so that the meat retains its juiciness.
The restaurant provides two types of chili sauce; both are made in-house. The green one is made from green chili peppers and is spicier. Personally, I tend to avoid using too much condiments especially when enjoying good steamboat. This is particularly true at Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat.
Customers may park directly in front of the restaurant or the adjacent shop. There are also additional parking spaces at a nearby car wash center. The center charges RM2.00 per car, but the parking fee can be deducted from the food bill.
Name: Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat (奇香铜碳鱼头火锅)
Address: 4350, Jalan Raja Uda, 12300 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-313-6888
Business hours: 5:00pm-10:30pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/qixiangfishheadsteamboat
Coordinates: 5.43005 N, 100.38382 E
Directions: From Jalan Permatang Pauh, turn right into Jalan Raja Uda. Drive northbound for approximately 2 kilometers. Qi Xiang Fish Head Steamboat is located on the left, just opposite Caltex gas station. There are parking spaces in front of the restaurant and at the nearby car wash center.

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