Growing up in Ipoh, I got to know claypot chicken rice at a very young age. I still remember where I ate it: a roadside stall in Hugh Low Street.
The uncle and aunty would monitor multiple claypots on stoves like hawks, holding fans to control the flame and lifting the lids occasionally to check if the rice had cooked, or to pour sauces. When our order eventually arrived at our table, the claypot looked so dangerous with wisps of angry steam escaping through the cracks between the lid and pot. But once you lifted the cover … Mama mia! The heavenly smells drove me wild.
Sadly, now that I’ve moved to KL, I don’t get to eat it often as my neighbourhood doesn’t have any good claypot rice stall that I know of. It never crossed my mind to make claypot rice though, until I saw a claypot craftsman at a booth during Hari Kraf Kebangsaan two years back. I love old-school artisanal goods. And it was really cheap, less than RM15, so I bought it without thinking twice.
Once I got home though, I started getting cold feet thinking it must be so difficult to use. The poor claypot sat in my cupboard gathering dust for nearly half a year until I was browsing recipes one day. A picture of claypot chicken rice popped up. I jumped up with a start and told myself, that’s it! I have to do this by hook or by crook!
To be honest, I was terrified, but my longing for claypot chicken rice was even greater …
That was a year ago. And you know what? I’ve made chicken rice many times, as well as other dishes with the claypot. I’ve tweaked the recipe multiple times, using tricks and tips I learned from watching other cooking videos.
But the best tip for killer claypot chicken rice is this one from my father.
He applies this technique to a non-claypot dish – yam fried rice. I noticed Dad always pre-fries the raw rice in sauces and oil before boiling it (the normal process of cooking rice). “Makes the rice more flavourful and fragrant,” he explained.
One day, I wondered if I could apply the same technique to claypot chicken rice. So before cooking the rice, I pre-fried the raw rice directly in the oil and sauces, before adding water to cook it as usual. Wow, that single step made a world of difference!
Later on, when I did more research, I found out that this technique is similar to making rice pilaf. Pre-cooking the rice this way imbues it with a richer and more complex flavour.
Why should you cook with a claypot?
- I find the claypot incredibly convenient and easy to use (it’s my favourite tool other than mortar and pestle!). What I love most about using the claypot is that you can “rescue” a dish if things go awry. Just open up the lid and add water if your rice is too dry, or simply let it cook longer if the dish is too wet.
2. A claypot is very easy to care for. Most of the commercial ones available are already glazed inside, so after cooking, just wash the inside with normal dishwasher and rinse the outside with water.
3. A claypot has superior heat retention properties, so it cooks food fast. That’s why it can cook the rice and chicken in 25 minutes or less. I fondly refer it as my low-budget answer to Le Creuset 🙂
If you’re thinking of getting a claypot, try Ramadas Pottery from Ijok, Selangor. I bought my claypot from him when he exhibited at Hari Kraf Kebangsaan. He was awarded Adiguru Kraf Tembikar (Pottery Master Craftsman) in 2012 due to his achievement and expertise in pottery field. I don’t have his business card anymore, unfortunately, but I did find an article with his contacts: RAMADAS POTTERY FACTORY, Batu 2, Jalan Kelang,45000 Kuala Selangor
Selangor, Malaysia. Tel: +6012 358 6304
Edit: I’ve revised the recipe slightly. In the original, I would add some minced ginger to marinate the chicken. However, I realise later that we’re already adding several pieces of ginger during the cooking process so this should take away the raw smell of the chicken. Anyways, you can opt for the method you like best!
Watch how to make claypot chicken rice!
Claypot Chicken Rice
- 200 g chicken drumstick and thigh pieces, bone-in skin-on
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp light soya sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soya sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1 cup rice, washed
- 4-5 shitake mushroom, soaked in water until soft (reserve water)
- 1 tbsp salted fish, fried and diced
- 1 cup water to cook rice (includes mushroom soaking water)
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4-5 ginger slices, lightly crushed
- 2 cloves garlic, lightly minced
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 stalk spring onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp fried shallots
- Mix sauce ingredients and divide into two portions. Add one portion of the sauce and cornflour to chicken. (The cornflour keeps the chicken glossy. Set aside and marinate for at least half an hour.)
- In claypot, heat up oil and saute shallots, ginger, garlic and shitake mushrooms until fragrant. Add remaining half of sauce to the claypot.
- Add rice to claypot and stir all ingredients together until grains are well coated with sauce ingredients. (see Recipe note 1)
- Add in 1 cup of water to the claypot.
- Spread the marinated chicken, salted fish and shitake mushrooms evenly on the surface of the rice.
- Once water is boiling, reduce heat. Close lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until cooked. (You can open the lid to check and add more water if necessary, but close it back quickly so not much of the steam escapes.)
- Switch off heat and let rest for another 10 minutes to finish cooking.
- Open lid and mix everything with a spatula. Sprinkle with spring onions and fried shallots and serve!
- Most recipes require you to add the sauce only at the end of the cooking process. Adding some of the sauce when you start to cook the rice helps to create more “lung tai” – that tasty burnt crust at the bottom – because of the caramelization effect from the sauces.
- Cooking time will depend on the size of your pot as well as the heat of your flame. Although I cooked my rice over a low flame, as my pot is small, it took only 5 minutes for the water to dry up. Don’t be afraid to open the lid to check. I used to be terrified it’d explode but so far, so good 🙂
- At the final stage, you can add any condiments you like such as Chinese sausage, liver sausage etc. Some people crack an egg into it. I like to keep my claypot chicken rice simple, so salted fish is good enough for me!