homemade chinese hotpot rice (煲仔飯)
Most of you would be familar with various types of hotpot: cheese fondue, fondue chinois, chinese hotpot, shabu shabu, sukiyaki, hot metal pot udon, Korean Stone bowl rice, etc. I like everything cooked in hotpot. My family and ex-colleagues all know I would never refuse to go for a chinese hotpot for dinner. Don’t ask me why but hotpot can make me happy. If you see me a bit down, a hotpot will immediately cheer me up. Usually I do not like repeating having the same kind of food the next day, only hotpot will be an exceptional case.
Today, I would like to share another typical hometown dish with you which is prepared in hot clay pot. It can be found in some small local restaurants in Hong Kong in the evening. You will find the cook cooking just outside the restaurants with several hot clay pots in a row at the same time, this also helps to attract people to eat in their restaurant. You can find them in places such as Jordan & Mongkok (in Kowloon side); Wanchai & Causeway Bay (in Hong Kong Island). I will take a photo when I go back to Hong Kong next month and post it here.
As promised: Claypot rice in Causeway Bay, taken on 13.11.08
If one day you visit Hong Kong and would like to try this hotpot rice in a nice restaurant, I can recommend Dynasty in Renaissance Kowloon Hotel, their dim sum during lunch time is also very good.
Hot clay pot rice is available only in winter, as the temperature goes down, people wants to stay warm, the hotpot rice is served hot with the pot in front of you so the rice will stay warm until you finish.
Yesterday I have served the chicken congee in the ceramic pot by bringing it to boil. Then I was thinking today what else can I do with this pot, then I recalled my mom has prepared the hotpot rice for us occasionally, she does not prepare this often as it requires a lot attention when cooking the rice, unlike with rice cooker, you can plug and go to do something else. Cooking hotpot rice requires patience and some experience on how to control the amount of heat. Although this was my first time but I was extremely satisfied with the outcome as I wanted to be.
With hotpot rice, in contrast to the congee I had yesterday, this time it does not matter that the rice smells a little burn*, this is absolutely normal as this gives this rice a distinct flavor when comparing to the rice cooked in rice cooker (e.g. my chinese risotto recipe). Once you have tried, you will know what I mean.
A truly authentic way should use a rustic chinese clay pot, however, the shop lady told me that it is only suitable for use on gas stoves and we are using electric stove here, so I have to use the Japanese ceramic pot instead but it really tasted very close to those eating-out. The pot itself did not come with a lid, so I used the lid of the saucepan instead.
- 3/4 – 1 cup of long grain rice (depends on the size of your pot)
- 100g minced pork
- approx. 50g or two tbsp finely chopped Preserved Chinese Radish** (Fig. 6)
- some chopped spring onion or schnittlauch (in English: Chives)
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp cornflour
- 1/2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp of cooking oil
- Pinch of white pepper
- Soak the preserved radish in warm water for 15 mins, this will make the radish less salty and wash away the chili powder. Then finely chopped the radish, you will need about 2 tbsp of this.
- Marinade the mince pork with the above seasoning and then mix it the chopped preserved radish.
- Wash the rice
- Brush the pot with a little oil and then add the rice and appropriate amount of water as you use when using a saucepan or rice cooker. When using a clay or ceramic pot, you may need a tiny little bit more water than usual (also depends if you use gas or electic stove).
- Bring the rice to boil without the lid for about 5 mins, in the meantime stir with a spoon for once or twice, this is to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom too early and may get burnt before it is cooked.
- When you see about three quarters of the water is absorbed, quickly spoon the meat on top of the rice. Then cover the pot with the lid and turn to medium heat (depends on the type of stove you have) and let it simmer for about another 5-8 mins (Fig.1) and then cook for another 8-10 mins or so in medium high heat. When you check and see the meat has turned the color and the liquid is all absorbed, this means it is cooked (Fig. 2). This part needs a bit self judgement, what I have described here a rough guide.
- You can sprinkle some spring onion or chives on top as garnish (Fig. 3). Drizzle a little dark soy sauce to enhance the taste (Fig. 4) and mix the meat and rice with a wooden spoon/ rice spatula. Serve immediately in rice bowls or directly from the pot if you like***.
*Just beware that this smell should only happen when the rice is completely cooked then you should move the pot from the stove.
** The Preseved Radish I bought is canned (Fig. 6), for the unused portion, you can keep them unsoaked in a bowl and in the fridge for later use. You can keep them for 1-2 weeks more.
***You can prepare some boiled green vegetables to make this a balanced meal.
Once you have grasp how to master this, you can try with other toppings you like such as chicken an d dried mushrooms. I will come back with more variations in the future.