I bit the bullet last weekend and bought a claypot from the Chinese supermarket. These traditional cooking pots are finickity beasts to cook with; a claypot isn’t shatter resistant, so you have to be very, very careful when cooking with it to allow it to heat up very slowly (complete with cold ingredients) and cool down equally slowly, or risk shards of pot and sauce all over the kitchen. Cooking in a claypot gives the dish a very particular texture and a smoky flavour. The rice on the very bottom of the pot will catch and singe into a gorgeous crisp layer, and the meat at the top will steam delicately, giving its juices to the flavourful rice.
I’ve used Chinese sausages here – you will be able to find them at any Chinese supermarket. If you can’t get your hands on any, use lardons of smoked bacon instead. They won’t taste the same, but they’ll give the dish the smoky, porky depth you’re looking for.
If you don’t have access to a claypot, you can cook this dish in a heavy-bottomed (not non-stick) saucepan with a lid. A well-used claypot, however, will give a lovely smoky taste to whatever’s cooked in it.
To serve three hungry people or four less-hungry people, you’ll need:
3 Chinese sausages
4 chicken thighs
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp light soy
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
5 chopped spring onions
1 tsp cornflour
½ glass rice wine
1 inch julienned ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 baby pak choi
5 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes
2 cups rice
3 cups stock
Mix the chicken and sausages in a bowl with all the ingredients except the rice, pak choi, mushrooms and stock. Leave to marinade for at least half an hour.
Put the rice and chicken stock in the cold claypot and place it over a medium heat with the lid on. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer, then leave the rice to steam for 15 minutes. The rice should be nearly cooked, with little holes in the flat surface.
Spread the chicken mixture, the pak choi and the chopped mushrooms all over the top of the rice, and put the lid back on. Continue to steam over a low heat for another 15 minutes, until the chicken is white and cooked through. Serve piping hot.