Classic clay pot rice in less than 20 mins! It can be made with either Chinese sausage or marinated chicken. Alternative cookware methods included.
What is clay pot rice
Known as Bao Zai Fan/煲仔饭 in Chinese, clay pot rice (aka Chinese rice casserole) is a mouthwatering street food popular in Canton and Hong Kong, the region where Cantonese cuisine dominates.
Essentially, it’s rice with one or more savory toppings cooked in a traditional clay pot and served with a soy sauce based seasoning mix.
It stands out for its rich flavor and aroma, as well as a pleasing contrast of textures: the soft, fluffy rice has a crispy base that’s scorched during the last step of cooking.
In terms of the toppings for clay pot rice, there are many varieties. I’ve chosen two classic options for this recipe: Chinese sausages or marinated chicken.
Here are a few tips before you dive into the details of the recipe.
- Clay pot produces the most authentic result, but other cookware would work too.
- Two classic toppings can be used individually or combined.
- Create the signature scorched rice base by using less water and adding oil.
- Make an umami sauce with several common Chinese condiments.
Clay pots & alternative cookware
A special type of crockery used in many Asian cuisines, clay pots have several advantages.
- It distributes heat evenly and retains it very well.
- The moisture circulates well thanks to its porous nature.
- Its bowl shape makes it possible to heat the side to create a crispy rice base.
- You can cook and serve the dish in the same pot and the food stays warm for a long time.
You can find clay pots in Asian/Chinese stores, as well as online. The one I use is of classic Chinese style known as Bao Zai/煲仔 or Sha Guo/砂锅 (See image above). It’s glazed inside, but unglazed outside. The wire frame holds the shape of the pot as it expands when heated.
Other types of clay pots (e.g. fully glazed ones, or Korean and Japanese ones) are also suitable.
🛎 N.B: Always check the instructions when using a new clay pot as some of them can’t be used on electric/induction hobs (or you need to pre-soak the pot before heating).
Don’t have a clay pot?
Alternative cookware includes cast-iron pots (dutch oven), and regular pots with a thick, heavy bottom. They need to have a fitted lid.
You may also use a rice cooker or Instant Pot to make this dish (just like how you cook One-Pot Hainanese Chicken Rice). Although the end result lacks the authentic crispy rice base, I guarantee it still makes a delicious meal.
Jasmine rice (aka Thai fragrant rice) is the best choice for Chinese clay pot rice. It has a subtle fragrance and an ideal level of stickiness. Other types of long-grain white rice can be used as substitutes, but I don’t recommend you use short-grain rice as it’s too sticky for this recipe.
Cooking liquid & ratio
You can simply use water to cook the rice, just like how you cook regular steamed rice. To further enrich the taste, replace water with unsalted stock or mushroom water (in which dried shiitake mushrooms are soaked).
The rice to liquid ratio is about 1:1 by volume. That is to say, for 1 cup of rice, you’d need 1 cup of water or stock.
This differs from the ratio I recommend for cooking plain rice on the stove as clay pot rice tastes better when a little firmer. That said, please feel free to slightly increase the liquid quantity if you prefer a softer, stickier texture.
This ratio works when using a clay pot, cast iron pot, or heavy-bottom pot. If using a rice cooker or Instant Pot, follow the ratio you normally apply.
Classic Chinese clay pot rice comes with a variety of toppings. Today’s recipe introduces two of the most popular versions.
- One is with Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong/腊肠) which is available in Chinese/Asian stores and has a pretty long shelf life (Try my recipe for Easy Chineses Sausage Rice which doesn’t require a clay pot).
- The other option is marinated chicken thigh pieces.
- You may choose either of them, or combine them to create an even yummier meal.
🛎 TIP: Apart from these two toppings, you may also use Chinese cured pork belly (Lap Yuk/腊肉), pork ribs, shrimp, smoked/five-spice tofu, mushrooms, or vegetables.
Sauce & garnish
The third essential element of clay pot rice is the sauce that flavors everything and gives the dish an enticing look. It’s made of several basic Chinese condiments:
You’d also need some finely chopped scallions (green onion/spring onion). To make the meal more nutritiously balanced, add some simply blanched leafy greens on the side.
The following instructions apply when using a clay pot, cast-iron pot, or heavy-bottom pot. See tips for the rice cooker/InstantPot method at the end of this section.
Step 1: Prepare the topping
- If using Chinese sausages, briefly rinse them under hot water to remove any dust on the surface collected during the drying process.
- If using chicken thighs as the topping, cut them into bite-sized pieces, then marinate with ginger, salt, white pepper, Shaoxing rice wine, and cornstarch for about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Cook the rice
Rinse the rice under runny water then put it into the pot (Soaking the rice beforehand isn’t necessary). Pour in water or stock.
Use medium-low heat to bring to a boil then leave to simmer uncovered until the water levels with the rice (do not overcook at this stage).
Step 3: Add the toppings
Place the topping (either the whole links of sausages or the marinated chicken) over the rice without overlapping. Cover with a lid. Turn the heat to the lowest. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.
🛎 N.B. Depending on the performance of your cooker and the nature of your pot, the cooking time may vary slightly. Please feel free to adjust.
Step 4: Scorch the rice
All along the lid of the pot, pour a little neutral-flavored cooking oil over. The lid of my clay pot isn’t that tight so the oil flows inside quickly. If your lid is very tight, you may need to briefly open the lid and pour the oil along the perimeter of the pot (remember to put the lid back on quickly to retain the heat).
Turn the heat up to medium and continue cooking to scorch the bottom of the rice. To achieve the most authentic result, heat all areas by tilting the clay pot at different angles. However, this isn’t doable if using other flat-bottom pots.
Once you sense a little smoke or a subtle burnt smell, remove the pot from the heat immediately to avoid overcooking.
If using sausages, you’d need to take them out at this point and cut them into thin slices.
Step 5: Season & mix
While waiting for the rice to cook, mix all the ingredients for the sauce and have chopped scallion ready.
Add them to the cooked rice and meat while scalding hot. This way, the remaining heat of the pot and rice further releases their aroma.
Toss and mix everything thoroughly. If you are making this dish for the first time, I suggest you add the sauce gradually. Taste and adjust to suit your preferred saltiness.
🛎 TIP: If you use a rice cooker or Instant Pot, apply the same rice-to-water ratio as you normally use. Add the meat topping from the beginning. Cook as usual, then mix in the sauce. This method wouldn’t produce crispy, scorched rice at the bottom though.
A: Yes, for sure. Increase the ingredient quantity proportionally. You would need more water/stock (a little over 1:1 ratio) and the cooking time also needs to be extended accordingly.
A: Mushrooms and firm vegetables, such as broccoli, carrot, etc., are good topping choices. When using them, you need to consider two factors: 1. They have a high water content so you’d need a little less water for the rice; 2. Put them into the pot a little later than suggested using meat to avoid overcooking.
What to serve with
Clay pot rice contains both carbohydrates and protein. Why not add a vegetable on the side? Here are some pairing dishes you can try:
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Clay Pot Rice Two Ways (煲仔饭)
BEFORE YOU START
- 1 small clay pot (see note 1 & 2 if using alternative cookware)
Topping option 1
- 2 links Chinese sausages
Topping option 2
- 2 pieces skinless, boneless chicken thighs - about 7oz/200g
- 1 tablespoon julienned ginger
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
For the rice
- 1 cup jasmine rice - about 7.5oz/215g
- 1 cup water - or unsalted stock
For the sauce
You also need
- 2 stalks scallions - finely chopped
Prepare the meat
- Option 1: If using Chinese sausages, rinse them with hot water to remove any dust.
- Option 2: If using chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces, then marinate with ginger, cornstarch, Shaoxing rice wine, salt, and white pepper for about 10 minutes.
Cook the rice
- Rinse the rice under runny water then drain well. Put it into the pot along with 1 cup of water.
- Cook over medium-low heat uncovered until the water levels with the rice (watch attentively to avoid drying out the water).
Add the topping
- Place the topping, either the whole links of sausages or the marinated chicken, over the rice (do not overlap the meat). Cover with a lid.
- Turn the heat to the lowest. Leave to cook for 10 minutes or so (see note 3).
Scorch the rice
- Pour a little neutral-flavored cooking oil all along the lid of the clay pot (see note 4). Turn the heat up to medium and continue cooking to scorch the bottom of the rice. If you’re using a gas cooker, try tilting the pot at different angles to heat the side.
- Once you sense a little smoke or a subtle burnt smell, remove the pot from the heat immediately (The scorching process took me about 4 minutes).
- If you use sausages, take them out at this moment and cut into thin slices. Put them back in the pot.
Season & mix
- While waiting for the rice to cook, mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Add it to the cooked rice and meat along with chopped scallions.
- Serve the dish in the pot. Toss and mix thoroughly and enjoy it immediately.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.