“‘In Malaysia this claypot rice recipe is always cooked outdoors and over charcoal,’ says Cheong. ‘The flame and the smokiness from the charcoal goes into the flavour of the rice… the smokiness permeates into the ingredients you’re cooking with. You get a crust on the bottom of the rice and my grandma would pour some Chinese tea over it and that’s what they’d have for supper.’
“Cooking icon Cheong Liew loves a claypot. While it costs next to nothing in Asian supermarkets, you can create wonderful dishes with it, which he describes as ‘one-pot weekend dishes to share with family’.” Maeve O’Meara, Food Safari Fire
- 3 cm (1¼ in) piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 1 spring onion (scallion), sliced
- 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
- 2 chicken leg quarters, cut into bite-size pieces, bone in
- 3 chicken wings, cut into bite-size pieces, bone in
- 12 small dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water until plump
- small handful of dried lily buds, soaked in water, tied into a knot
- small handful of dried cloud ear mushrooms (black fungus), soaked in warm water, hard centre removed and roughly torn
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce (see Note)
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1½ tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce (see Note)
- 1 tbsp ‘cooked oil’ or vegetable oil (see Note)
- generous pinch of white pepper
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 375 ml (12½ fl oz/1½ cups) chicken stock
- 300 g (10½ oz/1½ cups) jasmine or long-grain rice, soaked for 2 hours, washed and rinsed
- 1 thin slice ginger, finely julienned
- 2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
- still mineral water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 2 hours
To make the marinade, pound the ginger and spring onion in a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste. Add the Chinese rice wine.
Place the chicken in a large bowl. Place the shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl.
Strain the liquid over the chicken and the shiitake mushrooms. Discard the solids (ginger/spring onion paste).
Add most of the lily buds and cloud ear mushrooms to the chicken, reserving a small amount.
To the shiitake mushrooms, add half the light soy sauce and sesame oil. Then slice the mushrooms into thirds and add to the chicken with the cornflour. Add the remaining sesame oil and light soy, the dark soy and cooked oil, the white pepper and oyster sauce. Mix well to combine and set aside to marinate for 10–20 minutes.
Preheat the charcoal in a Japanese charcoal stove.
To prepare the rice, pour the chicken stock into a claypot and place over the charcoal stove. Bring to the boil before adding the rice and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Spoon the marinated mushrooms and chicken mixture evenly over the top of the rice. Reserve any remaining marinade. Sprinkle over the ginger with the remaining lily buds and mushrooms. Cover and cook for 15–25 minutes, until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through (if cooking over charcoal, you may need to remove some of the coal to lower the heat).
Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the spring onions. Dilute the remaining marinade with a little still mineral water and spoon over. Stir through well and serve straight from the claypot.
• In the marinade, Cheong actually uses what he calls a ‘cooked oil’ – rice bran oil cooked with spring onion (scallion) tops until crispy – but you can substitute vegetable oil.
• Cheong likes to use Pearl River light soy sauce by Golden Label and Pun Chun dark soy sauce.
• Most of the Chinese ingredients can be found in Asian grocery stores.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.