Claypot Chicken Rice - The Smokey & Crusted Way

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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 here.

To save time, most stalls pre-cook the rice in a rice cooker and dump the cooked rice into their claypots. Some do it mid-way 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.

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 a high flame to get the smoky flavour. This is not about "wok-hei" but "poe-hei"! A low flame will be enough to perfume 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 easily. No one likes cracked pots, eh? Har-line cracks are okay and you can still use it. Mine normally last for a few months. Just replace them as it is cheap.

Getting the right results
For a satisfying pot of this, you will want these:
  1. Smoky rice with a burnt crust at the bottom.
  2. The rice with the right fluffy texture, i.e. firm and separated, not mushy and sticky.
  3. Good flavours in every spoonful.
  4. The meat should be juicy and not be overcooked .
Claypot Chicken Rice Recipe
To serve 2-3 pax

Marinade for the meat 

Half-a-chicken (about 0.8 -1 kg)
2 tbsp  Soy Sauce
1tbsp Dark sauce
2 tbsp Chinese wine or 1t of hard liquor
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tbsp corn flour

Cut off and set aside the back bone, feet and less desirable parts for the stock. Cut the chicken into very small pieces, bone-in and skin on. In a bowl add the rest of the ingredients and leave the chicken to marinate for an hour. Corn flour is important if you want a silky and succulent texture.

Preparing the chicken stock 
Add the pieces for the stock into a small pot with about 3 cups of boiling water. Leave it to simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Cooking the Rice
2 cups of rice
2 cups of stock

You can use long jasmine rice or basmati rice. Add an equal amount of stock (or water) into the pot. Heat it up first, then add the equal amount of rice (this helps the rice to be separated when cooked). Be careful to keep to the 1:1 rice:liquid ratio. Cover and cook the pot on low flame for 10 minutes to till the rice is cooked, i.e. the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is almost cooked.

Cooking the meat 
2 pieces of Chinese waxed sausages ("lup cheong") - sliced thinly
Some salted fish (optional, use "Mui Heong")

As the rice is cooking, slice up the waxed sausages. When the rice is cooked, open the lid of the pot and put the marinated chicken pieces on top of the rice. Stick to one single layer to ensure even cooking. Add the sliced sausages on top and cut some pieces of salted fish into the pot. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Preparing the sauce and garnishing the pot
Spring onions
2 pieces of red chillies
1 tsp dark sauce

For the Sauce:
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp chinese wine (Hua Tiou)
1 tsp sugar
Some white pepper

Next you prepare the sauce. Mix them in a bowl. About 2 minutes before the pot is cooked, you drizzle in the sauce. At the 25th minute mark, it should be done. Depending on the strength of fire and type of pot, the timing may vary. But it is easy to see to check whether the meat is cooked.

Just before you serve it at the dining table, drizzle the dark sauce, garnish with diced spring onions and cut red chillies. When eating, give the rice a stir first and scrape up some of the crusted rice at the bottom. Accompany with plates of cut chilies in light soy sauce.

If possible, cook some chinese soup as it goes very well with claypot chicken rice.
Further notes
  1. As always, the recipe is just a guide. Vary your ingredients according to your preference. 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. 
  2. Using chicken stock in place of water produces better fragrance in the rice. 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 30 minutes to an hour. Remember to skim off the scum. 
  3. "Brining" in a marinate solution
  4. If you are using chicken pieces with their bones in it, wash the pieces carefully as blood causes scum and can discolour the meat, creating an unpleasant taste. Cut your chicken in such a way that the scum is minimised. 
  5. If you are using boneless meat, this is fine and will make for cleaner eating. As bones is a poor conductor of heat, your chicken will cook faster too. 
  6. 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.
  7. The additional sauce improves the flavour and moisturizes the rice. But this is optional.
  8. Salted Fish: Some love 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.   
  9. I use long grain Thai Jasmine rice. Use 1:1 rice:water ratio. I normally don't bother washing the jasmine rice as the ones I use are already very clean. Leave the rice undisturbed till the pot is cooked. This will allow the bottom to be crusted. You only dig up the rice at the dining table.     If you are using a larger pot and cooking more rice, the top layer of the rice will look uncooked at the mid-way point. Let it be. When you put your meat in and cook further, eventually the top layer will be cooked.
  10. Cooking rice in the stock
This is an easy and convenient one-pot meal to cook. The pot can be served hot at the table. In fact, this enhances the eating experience, especially for the family and makes the meal more appetising. The pot can be easily washed after you have soaked the crusted bottom.

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: I have since done up various posts on cooking with claypots. Check them out here

Flavourful and colourful

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  1. Wow, look so good! I am so trying this dish soon! Thanks for sharing, may I know what type of Thick dark sauce you using?


  2. ee - Just to add, using the local sweeter dark sauce variety will work too, esp if you prefer your sauce to be sweeter or less bitter.

    1. I am in texas now and cannot really differentiate the different type of dark soy sauce being sold here. Using just the eye, it seems most type are the usual dark soy sauce and not the thick 'caramel' type. I think I have to use Kecap Manis for now ...

  3. The water for the rice, is the same amount we use in rice cooker? It looks like you are using little water for the claypot rice. Will it be too hard?

    1. Iboey - I checked again. Equal amount (2 cups) of water is correct. You won't need more than that less the rice becomes too soft and mushy.

  4. What is the thick dark sauce? Sweet or salty kind?

  5. Nice blog and I enjoyed reading your story! I've got a claypot which I have been meaning to use, and thIs sounds like the perfect recipe for it :)

    1. Yes, it should be. Met your Mum this morning :)

  6. Sounds like a great dish. I culd see myself enjoying this.

  7. where can I get a clay pot in Singapore?
    Are all the same or is there difference in quality?

    1. You can find it in most kitchen or home ware shops. There are of course different types and quality. I use the cheapest types (as in pics). Try to google for some stores near you

  8. If you dont want your claypots to crack soak b4 first use for 24 hours

    1. Selvarani - any reason for this? I hear contradicting instructions. One pot seller told me not to soak.

  9. I had no idea about "sand clay pots," I've only thought there were just the standard Romertopf clay bakers. I'm definitely adding to my collection.

  10. Just tried this and it was great. Thanks for sharing your mom's recipes: it is an honor to spread the tradition of her great skill and love across the world!

  11. It had bee my long time dream to revamp the kitchen of our central london apartments in order to make room for some hardcore cooking. I love your recipes!

  12. All dishes looks so yummy and delicious! You sure know how to pamper a hungry and needy stomach.

  13. I've always enjoyed eating this, i think it's time i learn how to make it myself, thanks for sharing!

  14. Always make sure that you are still following the path of healthy lifestyle even when you are indulging yourself to these kind of foods. Just to avoid any sickness and assure yourself that you are living healthily.

  15. My family and I love Chinese food every time we go on road trips. It's like a tradition that we pack or buy Chinese food on the way so we can enjoy looking at the sites we come across. So far, we haven't tried this yet, so thanks for the idea!

  16. I was thinking on what restaurant to go to for my next date. Maybe I should try out restaurants that do offer Chinese cuisine.

  17. May I know what is the cornflour for?

  18. Th corn flour gives the sauce a thicker texture.I omit it most times.

  19. For those of you living in North America, note that chicken has a high water content. Thus if you use 2 cups of rice, only add 1.5 cups of stock to cook the rice, as the balance of the water will come from the chicken.

  20. However, if you cook the rice first before you add the chicken, you will need the right amount of water at the start. Perhaps avoid adding any more liquid apart from the one use to cook the rice.

  21. thank you so much for your claypot rice recipe. my family loves it and I have been using it for the last year or so. hubby loves it so much we cook extra to eat overnight, it tastes even better! great website, cant wait to try Aunty Ruby's curry puffs!

  22. Saw the photos on facebook, Came to here when searching for recipe. The salted fish "Mui Heong" - is it salted ikan batang or ikan kurau? I have always thought it is salted ikan batang but your photo show fish that look like ikan kurau. Can post a photo of packaging?

  23. Hi, I just viewed a video on on cooking salted fish with minced pork. The recipe call for "Mui Heong". It does not look like ikan batang or ikan kurau. Anyway after viewing it, I know what to buy now.

  24. Hi, after checking a few recipes online, I like yours most. I have some questions. At the sauce section, you mentioned the "25th minute mark". Do you mean that after the chicken is cooked, the dish should be cooked to cook for a further 25 minutes? Or should it have been the 15th minute mark, referring instead to the 15 minutes it takes to cook the chicken? Does capital "T" mean tablespoon and small "t" mean teaspoon? Does the "soya sauce" in the sauce recipe refer to "dark soya sauce"?

  25. 25th min mark - from the start ...when you started cooking the rice.
    T= Tablespoon
    Soya sauce= light soy sauce

    I will see what I can do to clarify my recipe...

  26. Just checking whether 200 ml water for the marinate is too much. It has the effect of adding additional water to the rice?

  27. Yes you are right Ernie. I no longer add water to the marinate. The corn flour will do the work of keeping the meat moist.