One of my favourite dish, which I will almost never make at home, is Claypot Rice.
I like my food piping hot, so Claypot Rice with the inherent risk of 2nd degree burns from coming in contact with the hot claypot is a natural favourite.
To make claypot rice from scratch, the uncooked rice is boiled in a claypot until it is about 3/4 cooked. Then the ingredients are added – this would usually be some meat, usually including Chinese sausages, a few sprigs of fresh vegetables, sometimes there will be black mushrooms (shiitake?), and salted fish on top of the rice and cooking continues (cover the pot with the lid). When the rice is cooked, the lid is removed, and the whole pot is served, with garnish (usually fried onions), oil, and black soy sauce (sweet).
Then, you must immediately mix the rice and ingredients, taking special care to rotate the soon to the burnt rice at the bottom, up and out of direct contact with he bottom of the hot claypot, and stir in either the ingredients (the sliced Chinese Sausages or meat are good candidates) or the rice at the top, down to the bottom. If you do not, the rice at the bottom which has been over-heated, will burn as it continues to be in contact with the hot claypot.
For many diners, apparently having burnt rice at the bottom of the claypot is not a problem.
Sure. If you don’t need to wash the pot after that and try to scrape off the burnt rice, then its not a problem. (which is one reason I will never make this at home.)
But the other reason is to get the crunchy but not-yet-burnt rice to the top, while rotating down the top rice to give them a chance to get crunchy.
If you like yaki onigiri, you might like the crunchy rice.
So I used to go to the bus drivers canteen (actually the National Transport Workers Union canteen, but “Bus Drivers’ Canteen” sounds less formal and less pretentious and more accurately sets expectations about ambience and prices) at Bishan, and there was a stall selling claypot rice and soup.
It was $4 or $5 for a single serving, and $8 for a larger serving enough for 2 or 3 persons. Most of these stalls now sell claypot chicken rice (though pork used to be more prevalent), and because salted fish is now considered a delicacy, I would consider myself lucky to get three bits of salted fish in a claypot.
Then the stall closed.
That was over 2 years ago, and I haven’t found another stall until last Thursday at the Old Airport Road Hawker Centre. There I found “132 Claypot” which offered just one version of claypot chicken rice (always a sign that the stall is highly specialised) and a soup of the day.
You can add on to the claypot rice. PL wanted “salted egg paste” which was a mistranslation. It was just the salted egg yolk. Later she realised that there was also salted fish, and other add-ons.
We also wanted a soup. It was not the day for corn and pork soup, so we selected “old cucumber and pork rib soup”.
And after a rather long wait (about half an hour, by my estimate), we got our claypot. Worth the wait.
I managed to mix the rice, loosen the crunchy rice at the bottom, and fold in the rice at the top to the bottom, and all without inflicting any hot contact burns on myself. Must be my lucky day.
The best part? Almost every spoonful of rice had a bit of salted fish. They were generous with the salted fish. For $10 (enough for two), it was definitely worth it.
The soup was also very tasty and was a good complement to the claypot.
Now I want to do claypot rice at home! With olive vegetables, salted fish, Chinese sausages, and roast pork and char siu!
Ok. Maybe NOT olive vegetables AND salted fish. And maybe not roast pork.