Claypot is popular in the streets of Hong Kong and Guangdong alike. It could be the bitterest winter day or a steaming hot summer day, nothing deters the people of these regions getting out into the streets to get some of this delicious street food.
The fragrant rice cooked in the claypot accompanied by the various flavors of sausage, vegetables, seafood or chicken and topped with a characteristic salty-sweet sauce is bursting with flavor.
It is no wonder other regions have been inspired to invent their own versions of this amazing dish: South Korea’s stone bibimbap, Japan’s “kettle rice” and so on.
Although there is wide variation with the claypot dish, the cooking methods are similar, and there are a few tricks to learn to make the perfect claypot meal. Today, I will introduce you to the most basic claypot meal.
The most important ingredient in claypot is the rice, it is the maker or breaker of a good claypot dish. No matter how good the other ingredients are, if the rice is not cooked well it will be a second-class dish. The secret to cooking delicious rice means knowing some basic principles.
Firstly, the rice must be fresh to have a full flavor, the longer it has been stored, the worse the flavor. Rice flavor and taste are closely related to the variety, but we all have our own taste preferences, too.
In general, the longer the grain, the more amylose (a component of starch) content and the higher the viscosity. It also has a dryer taste, making it best suited to fried rice.
The most common long grain rice is the Indian rice (Basmati), which when cooked, the grains have almost no adhesion between each other. It looks absolutely first class, but not as nice to eat, being a bit dry and tasteless in the mouth. It is not suitable for claypot.
Thai jasmine rice (a kind of Indian rice), which has a slightly shorter grain, tastes much better. At the other end of the spectrum is short rice, the varieties of which are tastier, softer and more flexible. Of course, if the heat is too high or the proportion of rice is too high, it becomes pasty.
The Jiangnan common japonica grain, Thai rice and Japanese rice have a more moderate taste and viscosity. When making claypot, I have found that out of Indian rice, Thai rice and ordinary rice, that Thai jasmine rice is the best, which is what I use here in this recipe.
Many people recommended soaking the rice in advance, according to my understanding, this is essentially to shorten the cooking time, which works well in commercial kitchens where time is of the essence. But at home in your own kitchen this is not necessary.
You don’t need to worry about the rice becoming hardened. The hardening of rice is dependent on two factors: the proportion of water and rice, and cooking time. The higher the proportion of water, the longer the cooking time, and the softer rice.
The proportion of water and rice are to a certain extent personal preferences and it is difficult to give a universal number for the right quantities. Here, I recommend a ratio of 150 grams of rice with 235 grams of water (1 person). This can be increased or decreased according to how you like your rice.
A wide shallow pot is best for producing a good claypot. If you use a deep pot, the rice will not cook evenly.
First, measure out 150 g of rice and rinse until the water runs clear. Then add water until the total weight of water and rice is 385 g. Put the pot on the stove, add 1 g of salt and 4 g of light vegetable oil (peanut oil or grape seed oil) to give a lighter color and taste to the rice.
Put the lid on the pot and bring to the boil. Turn down to low (minimum) and cook for 15-20 minutes to get the best taste. The easiest way to test if the rice is cooked, is to open the lid quickly and, with chopsticks, pick out a few grains of rice to taste. When the rice is not quite the way you like it, you can add the prepared sausage to it.
If you want to make waxy claypot, you can use Cantonese-style sausage or Cantonese-style bacon, duck, etc., or a combination of any of these.
The most common meat used is the wide-type sausage. Put 85 g of sausage into the boiling water and boil for 3 minutes and remove. This will clean the surface of the sausage.
Cool enough to handle, and cut diagonally into thin slices.
Potatoes are best with some vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, or cabbage, but here I have used broccoli buds. Like sausages, the vegetables should be boiled in advance. Take a soup pot, add 1.5 liters of water, bring to the boil and add 15 g of salt and 15 g of peanut oil or grape seed oil.
Boil the chopped vegetables separately as they each take a different amount of time to cook perfectly, e.g. broccoli may take 2-3 minutes, and 30 seconds is enough for cabbage. Here broccoli buds need about 1 1/2 minutes. Because they will go back into the pot, you do not have to rinse the vegetables with cold water.
A delicious sauce for claypot is very important and is often overlooked. The sauce is the most memorable taste in a claypot and there are many different combinations, but I feel the following is very good:
- 30 ml soy sauce
- 50 ml water
- 3 ml US fresh sauce
- 15 ml oyster sauce
Put all the above ingredients into a small pot and cook gently on the lowest heat so that the remaining alcoholic ingredients (brewing soy sauce contains about 3% alcohol) evaporate. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, turn off the flame. Do not use the fire to heat the liquid any further or it will burn the sauce making it bitter.
The ingredients are now ready to go back into the rice. Do this, as mentioned above, when the rice is almost cooked. At home when I use Thai jasmine rice, I boil it and then turn it down to low heat for 15 minutes.
Arrange the sausage slices nicely on top of the rice, cover and cook on low for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle the 20 ml of sauce on the surface of rice to season it. Cook for a further 2 minutes and turn off the flame. It is now ready to serve.
Place the pot on the insulation mat on the table, accompanied by the vegetables.