I love Claypot Chicken Rice.
My family loves it.
And I know you do too. Come to think of it, I have yet to meet someone who doesn't.
The best thing about it is that it is a one-pot meal. In terms of effort and time, I rate it as one of the easiest Chinese one-pot meals to do for the family.
For countless times now, I have used the rice cooker to cook it. The results are quite good but we all love the way the claypot perfumes the rice and adds a crusted layer at the bottom. To eat this real claypot chicken rice, we normally visit hawker centers and there are a few good ones here in Singapore. Very few, actually. There is a great post on how stalls cook it, written by Leslie of ieat.
To save time, most stalls pre-cook the rice in a rice cooker and dump the cooked rice into their claypots. Some do it at the mid-way point and you can smell some smoky aroma, but no crusted burned rice. You do not want that. You can tell by looking, smelling - and the need to wait - whether rice is cooked in-situ. And you will also have to wait for no less than half an hour for that is about how long it takes to cook. The time it needs and customers' impatience are some of the reasons why these stalls are just a handful today.
There is no reason why you should not cook this at home. I will detail here a recipe which can get you something close to - if not better - than those done in your favorite stalls. Now, if you do not have the time, even a basic version (i.e. meat is only briefly marinated, water in place of stock) will be much better than using your rice cooker.
Getting the right claypot
You need to buy sand claypots. These are the cheapest - due to their unglazed porous clay bottoms, they will impart a good smoky fragrance.
These, which are about 8 inch in diameter, are cheap at $6 each, They will feed up to 3 pax if you are using it to cook rice. These came wired. I am not sure what it does. I suppose it reinforces the pots and minimises expansion when heated. Or maybe it helps with heat distribution. It seems robust enough and has the right size and dimension for the home dinner table.
Now, you don't need high flame to get the smoky flavour. This is not about "wok-hei" but "poe-hei"! A low flame will be enough to smoke the rice. At hawker stalls, they increase the fire to speed up the cooking. You won't need to rush at home. No one is waiting in queue.:)
That said, these kind of pots do crack quite easily. I am still learning to improve their longevity and do tell me if you know how.
No one likes cracked pots, eh?
Getting the right results
For a satisfying pot of this, you will want these:
- Smoky rice with a burnt crust at the bottom.
- The rice with the right texture - firm, separated and moist.
- Good flavours in every spoonful.
- The meat should be juicy and not be overcooked .
- The rice is piping hot as you eat it.
I have checked on some recipes but I am also guided by some very good versions, such as the one served at Malaysian Food Street. If you follow these basic steps, the above can be achieved easily. To cook a pot for 3 pax, you will need about 25-30 minutes.
Claypot Chicken Rice Recipe
To serve 2-3 pax
2 cups of rice
2 cups of chicken stock or water (add 10% more if you are not washing the rice beforehand)
Half-a-chicken (about 0.8 -1 kg), cut into small pieces
2 pieces of Chinese pork sausage ("lup cheong") - sliced thinly
Some salted fish (optional, use "Mui Heong")
Spring onions - diced for garnishing
1 tsp corn flour
Marinate or "Brine"
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 bowl of water
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese wine (Hua Tiou)
Some white pepper
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
- Brine the chicken for about half an hour or more (preferably 2 hours) in a salt-sugar-oyster sauce-water solution. The idea is to use a wet marinate rather than a drier sauce marinate. I will explain the "science" of this in another post.
- Prepare the stock from chicken bones. Simmer in water for about 1 hour. You can also use ready-made stock.
- Wash the rice and put it into the pot. Pour in the stock. Use 1:1.1 rice-water ratio (add 10% more if you are not washing the rice beforehand. Start heating up the pot with a low flame.
- When the rice has absorbed all the water (after about 10 mins - by now you should be able to smell the smoky fragrance), add the chicken pieces on top of the rice in one layer. Then add the sausage slices and salted fish on top. Close the lid and continue cooking.
- To make the sauce, add all ingredients and heat up briefly in wok or an. Add some water if it is too dry.
- After the rice has cooked for about 12 mins, open the lid and add in the sauce. This step is to moisten the rice and improve its flavour. Cook for another 3 minutes.
- Drip in the thick dark soy sauce. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Serve immediately. When eating, give the rice a stir first and dig up some of the crusted rice at the bottom if you like. Accompany with plates of cut chilies in soy sauce.
As always, some explanatory notes are given here so that you 'cook with understanding'. In doing so, you will be confident about applying the same principles for other recipes or work on your own.
- As always, the recipe is just a guide. Vary your ingredients according to your preference. Adding slices of salt fish and lup cheong gives the "encapsulated flavour" experience, savory and sweet bursts of flavours which makes this dish so special. You have to decide what you prefer. It is difficult to cook a disaster with this. About the only thing is mushy rice and that will happen if you put in too much water.
- Using chicken stock in place of water produces better fragrance in the rice. The chicken oils from the stock also adds to the flavour and helps separate the rice grains. I will normally buy a whole chicken and chop it up myself. This gives me more options to separate the various parts. The feet, bony parts (spine), neck, head etc can be used for the stock. Alternatively, you can also buy the chicken parts designated for stock-making. Just heat up the pieces in water and simmer for 1-2 hours. Remember to skim off the scum.
- If you want your chicken tender and moist, you should marinate or brine the chicken in a solution (as oppose to marinating in a drier sauce). See pic below.
- If you are using chicken pieces on bone, I will advise you to blanch the chicken pieces. If you are making stock, blanch it in the stock and you can strain the stock later. Blood causes scum and can discolour thigh meat, creating an unpleasant taste. This is true especially for chicken thigh if you are cutting the bone. If you are using boneless meat, this is fine and will make for cleaner eating.
- You can add green veg like bok choy, choy sum (chye sim) or kai lan at the same time when you add the meat. Or garnish with lettuce.
- The additional sauce improves the flavour and moisturize the rice.
- Salted Fish: Some loves this. Other don't. If you do, use the Mui Heong Ham Yee (Salted Mackeral Fish). This version comes moist and has a strong fragrance.
- I use long grain Thai Jasmine rice. Some recipes call for the rice to be soaked for half an hour beforehand. This ensures the rice cooks evenly and well. Use 1:1.1 rice:water ratio. If you are soaking the rice before hand, note that there is already in the rice and so, 1:1 ration will do. This water cooks the rice and whatever liquid you add after this is has minimal impact on the texture of the rice though it will affect the wetness of the sauce. So, it needs to be enough. But too much will result in mushy rice. So, you need to find what works best for the rice you are using. Leave the rice undisturbed till the dish is cooked. This will allow the bottom to be crusted. The cooked rice should be firm, separated and fluffy - not mushy.
- As many factors can contribute to the level of saltiness (e.g. type oyster sauce, soy sauce, salted fish etc) of the rice, I am generally conservative at the cooking phase. When eating at the table, diners can adjust further using soy sauce according to their personal preference. But remember that saltiness = flavour! So, you need enough of that.
- Understand this technique of cooking and from there you can try many different claypot rice recipes.
|"Brining" in a marinate solution|
Trust me: this dish is not difficult to do. Just get a ordinary cheap claypot and have a go. You can simplify the recipe (skip the stock and making of the sauce) and it will still turn out good. After you start using claypots, you will not use rice cookers to do this again.
I will be coming up with more claypot recipes and various versions of claypot chicken rice.
Ed: Latest claypot recipes: Claypot Basmati Rice (with additional notes on cooking w clay pot), Rice Wine & Ginger Chicken Claypot Rice
Stay tuned or check on TFC's FB.
Check out these links for extra info on claypot rice and claypot cooking in general:
|Flavourful and colourful|
|Prepared Chicken stock|
|Covering the uncooked rice with stock|
|After 10 minutes, add the chicken and lup cheong|
|Doing up the Sauce|