Traditional Claypot Rice: Cooking the rice in a traditional claypot adds a special touch to the dish, infusing a smoky aroma into the chicken and rice, and creating a crusty bottom layer of crispy, slightly charred rice that everyone will be rushing for!
As a child, I remember my parents bringing the family to our favourite Claypot Rice Stall in Chinatown. As we have a big family, our usual order was one beef claypot rice, one chicken and one “lup mei” (a mixture of Chinese sausage, waxed cured duck and waxed cured pork belly) claypot rice. Nowadays it is much harder to find authentic traditional claypot rice which is cooked directly over charcoal stoves.
I remember these charcoal stoves were seated on a few different levels. The fire at the 1st level was the highest, the second level was medium fire and the highest level had the lowest heat. It took 45 minutes to an hour for our pot of rice to arrive. But it was all worth it because the power of the charcoal flame lends the dish its distinct smokey and burnt flavours. The claypot as a cooking vessel also adds a special touch to the dish, creating the much coveted crusty layer of charred rice at the bottom which provides yet another magical texture. So using a claypot to cook this dish is a sure must. My siblings and I used to quarrel over who got to eat the burnt bits. Now whenever I cooked claypot rice, it brings back memories of those happy childhood days.
To make this dish at home, I used a gas stove with a deep pot/wok support stand (see the contraption above). This is a lifesaver as it allows me to tilt the claypot on all 4 sides and balance it on the stand. Before this very useful gadget became part of my dispensable kitchen tools, I used to have to hold the claypot by hand for 25 minutes just to do the rotation! If you are using a traditional charcoal stove like the ones you see in very old school hawker stalls, you won’t need this gadget as the charcoal stove already comes with groves that act as a support for the pot no matter which way it is tilted.
Tilting the claypot every 2-3 minutes is an essential step as prevents the rice at the bottom and sides from getting burnt while the rest of the rice and ingredients are still cooking. You will know that you have mastered the art of making claypot rice when you are able to achieve a golden crusty and crispy (not charred!) layer of rice at the bottom once your dish is cooked. Would you like to give it a try too? Read the whole recipe and my notes on how to choose a claypot and how to prepare it before its first use!
Traditional Claypot Rice with Chicken
Cooking the rice in a traditional claypot infuses a smoky aroma into the dish, and creates a crusty bottom layer of crispy rice that everyone will be rushing for!
- 3 rice cups Jasmine Rice
- 2.5 rice cups Water
- 3 pieces Chicken Thighs
- 2 whole Chinese Sausages
- 1/2 slice Preserved Radish
- 1 small piece Salted Fish Preferably Ikan Kurau, about an index finger length
- 2 stalks Spring Onions
- 4-5 bunches Chye Sim
Marinade for the Chicken
PREPARATION (20 mins)
Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and marinate with the marinade ingredients for 20 minutes.
Soak the Chinese sausages in hot water for 5 mins, then remove the sausage casing and cut diagonally into thin slices.
Shred the preserved radish and soak it for 5 mins to remove excess salt, then squeeze dry.
- Cut the salted fish into tiny pieces.
- Cut the spring onions into small pieces.
Wash and drain the rice.
COOKING METHOD (35 mins)
Place the rice and water in a large claypot, and add the 3/4 tsp of salt. Give the rice a stir and bring to boil over medium high heat.
When the rice starts to boil (about 6 minutes), add in the chicken, shredded radish, salted fish and Chinese sausages on top of the rice. Do not stir. Instead, try to spread out the ingredient in just one layer.
Lower the heat to just below medium and cook the rice for about 25 mins, rotating the claypot every few minutes by tilting the claypot on 4 sides, so that the rice at the bottom will not get burnt.
Expert Tip: By tilting the claypot on its side, it enables the smoke inside the pot to cook the chicken thus giving it a smokey flavour.
Gently stir just the ingredients in the pot but not the rice, making sure they are thoroughly cooked.
Lower the heat and turn the pot straight up, then add in the Chye Sim and cook for another 5 mins. By now you will smell the smokey aroma coming out from the pot.
When the rice is cooked, bring the whole pot to the dining table. Open the lid, add in sesame oil, garlic oil and dark soya sauce and mix with the chicken.
Scoop out the vegetable and the chicken mixture on the plate.
Add a little more dark soya sauce to the rice and stir using a pair of chopstick. Garnish with spring onions and serve while it is hot.
- Use 1/2 cups of water less than the rice amount. This is because the chicken also releases juices as it cooks to compensate for reduction inwater. If you use the same amount of water as the rice, the rice will become too soggy after it is cooked.
- You need to stand by the stove during the whole process to rotate the claypot every 2-3 mins on all the four sides and on the bottom of the pot. This will enable the smoke in the pot to cook the chicken from all directions, and also prevent the rice at the bottom from getting burnt. The outcome you are aiming for is to get the bottom layer of rice to be crusty and crispy, but not burnt. Make sure you wear a pair of kitchen gloves to handle the hot pot.
- To speed up the cooking process, you can fry the chicken and ingredients to about 30% doneness before adding them to the rice. You will need to practice several times in order to control the fire well.
- If you are buying a new claypot, make sure you get one with two handles rather than just one. I made that mistake with my last pot - I have difficulty to lifting the pot with one hand because it is very heavy. So two handles would be more ideal!
- If your claypot is a brand new one, you need to fill it with water and soak for a few days before using otherwise it will crack while cooking. Claypots are very fragile, you need to handle them gently in order for them to last.