Clay Pot Rice: Essential Cold Weather Chinese Comfort Food

Featured image credit: Serious Eats- Shao Z.

 

If you’ve ever tried traditional clay pot rice, then you know you can’t get enough of it! The steaming hot clay pot, coupled with the slightly smoky, umami aroma does wonders on a cold winter day. In honour of the cold season, I’m going to be showing you how to make clay pot rice with chicken, Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushrooms.

Background

I always remember the times that my grandmother makes clay pot rice. It always ends in a feeling of comfort when the whole family is at the dinner table, each taking turns scooping rice from the clay pot. It always ends up with my sister and I fighting over the last scoops and going in for thirds.

The version I’m showing you is my favourite; clay pot rice with chicken, Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushrooms. However, there are endless combinations of toppings you can add, from pork ribs, Chinese pork patty etc. If you are new to clay pot rice, I highly suggest trying the one I am about to show; it provides a steady base in which to build upon and explore new variations.

Aside from basic kitchen essentials, the obvious one you will be needing that is out of the ordinary is a clay pot. Theoretically, this recipe should work using a normal stockpot (I have not tried this and do not recommend this over a clay pot). The clay pot adds the essential crust of rice on the bottom, an even, oven-like heat distribution, and a perfect steaming system.

The ingredients can be found at any Chinese supermarket. The beauty of this recipe is that it is a no fuss, less ingredient, and quick meal that packs a big punch. The only challenging ingredient to find would be the shiitake mushrooms, which again, could be disregarded if so desired. The dish is extremely flexible and focusses on staples. That being said, the ingredient amounts reflect your personal tastes; if you like more chicken, go with more chicken! I have included amounts for reference. Without further ado, it’s time to cook!

Ingredients

Medium grain rice – 1 mug full feeds 3-4 people

Chicken thigh – around 2, cut into bite sized pieces

Dried, whole shiitake mushroom – 1 handful, around 8-10

Chinese sausage – 2 links, cut into bite sized chunks

Soy sauce – 2 tbsp.

Corn starch – 1 tbsp.

Sugar – 1 tbsp.

Ginger – 1 knob, around 1 inch piece, peeled, chopped into slices


Method

1)     Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of lukewarm water until rehydrated and soft

2)     Marinate chicken with soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar. Ideally, you can marinade this in the fridge overnight, but a good 3 hours will do the job. Generally, I rehydrate the mushrooms as I marinade the chicken. Make sure to work in the marinade to cover all pieces of chicken and combine the sugar and cornstarch.

3)     Rinse rice under cold water for at least one minute to remove excess starch. This is the key to fluffy rice. Drain excess water and put rice into clay pot. Add 2 parts warm water to 1 part rice (i.e. 1 mug of rice gets 2 mugs of water) to clay pot.

4)     Add mushrooms and Chinese sausage. Close pot lid and bring up to a boil on high heat. The early addition of this perfumes the rice and combines the flavours very nicely so that the rice takes on the flavour of mushroom and sausage.

5)     When you see smoke start to rise out of the small hole of the lid, turn the heat down to a medium low.

6)     When you see the water content decrease by around 50% (you should see the top of the rice touch the top of the water, usually takes around 6-10 minutes) add the chicken and ginger.

7)     Cook covered until chicken is thoroughly cooked, and no water remains.

8)     Remove from heat and let steam with lid covered for around 5 minutes.

9)     Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks

Cooking with a clay pot can be intimidating at first. Ideally, you should not lift the lid unless you’re adding ingredients. When you’re first starting, this will be especially difficult because of judging the water level. Over time, you will lift the lid less and less and have an intuition on when to add other ingredients in/ turn off the heat. A good indicator if your pot is too cold/ too hot is the stream of steam coming out of the little hole at the top of the lid. If the stream is roaring, lower the heat and vice versa. The stream should look like a steady, continuous, flow at the speed as if you were boiling water without a lid. Make sure when serving to scrape the crust of golden brown rice from the bottom of the pan and mix it in. This adds a nice element of crunch and texture contrast with the soft, fluffy rice. This dish approximately takes 30 minutes, is easy and cheap to make. I hope you give this a try on a cold winter day!

 

 

Article by: Justin Li

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