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.
Traditional Claypot Rice Recipe
Cooking the rice in the claypot adds a special touch to the dish, creating the much coveted crusty layer of charred rice at the bottom.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
- Rice (Jasmine white rice), 3 cups
- Chicken Thighs, 3 pieces
- Chinese sausage, 2
- Cooking Oil
- Salted fish (Preferably Ikan Kurau), about an index finger length
- Preserved radish, 1/2 slice
- Salt, a pinch
- Pepper, a dash
- Spring onion, 2 stalks
- Sesame Oil, 2 tsp
- Garlic Oil, 1 TBsp
- Dark Soya Sauce, 1 1/2 TBsp
- Chye Sim, 4-5 bunch
Marinade for the chicken
- Oyster sauce, 1 1/2 TBsp
- Ginger, 6 slices
- Cornflour, 1 TBsp
- Pepper, a dash
- Salt, 1/2 tsp
- Sesame Oil, 2 tsp
- Oil, 2 tsp
- Hua Tiau Chiew, 1 tsp (Optional)
PREPARATION (30 mins)
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and marinate with the marinade ingredients.
- Soak the sausage in hot water for 5 mins and remove the waxed covering and cut diagonally into thin slices.
- Shred the preserved radish n soak for 5 mins so that it is not too salty. then squeeze dry.
- Cut the salted fish into tiny pieces.
- Cut the spring onions into small pieces.
- Wash the rice and drain off the water on a strainer.
COOKING METHOD (30 mins)
- Put the rice in the big claypot and add 2 1/2 cups of water and add a pinch of salt
- Give the rice a stir and bring to boil over medium high heat.
- When the rice starts to boil after about 5-7 mins, add in the chicken, shredded radish, salted fish and Chinese sausage on top of the rice. Do not stir. Try to spread out the ingredient in just one layer.
- Lower the heat to slightly below medium and cook the rice for about 25 mins rotating the claypot every few mins by tilting on the four sides so that the rice at the bottom will not get burnt while the rest of the rice remains uncooked. By tilting the claypot on its side, it enables the smoke inside the pot to cook the chicken thus giving it a smokey flavor.
- Gently stir all the ingredients in the pot but not the rice to make sure they are thoroughly cooked.
- Lower the heat and turn the pot straight up, 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 onion and serve while it is hot.
- Use 1/2 cups of water less than the rice amount. When the chicken is placed on top of the rice it will release juices which will compensate for reduced amount of water. 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 for the whole process as you need to rotate the claypot every 2-3 mins on all the four side including the bottom of the pot. This will enable the smoke in the pot to cook the chicken, and also prevent the rice at the bottom from getting burnt as it is closest to the heat. By doing so, the rice on all the side as well as the bottom will be crusty and crispy, but not burnt charred.
- You will need to wear a pair of kitchen gloves to handle the hot pot.
- To speed up the cooking process, you can fry the chicken 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.