Clay pot rice.
Clay pot rice.
Image: Supplied

There’s a well-known street dish where I grew up. It’s called the clay pot rice. You can translate into English as “the rice casserole”. It’s a traditional “one pot” dish that can date back 2000 years. A typical clay pot rice restaurant consists of an army of clay pots on their individual flames, the chef looks like a musical conductor pacing up and down the rows of fire and perfecting the heat of each pot, making sure they all come out delicious.

Clay pot rice is presoaked and cooked in a clay pot and finished off with other ingredients as toppings. The most common toppings are chicken, mushrooms, mustard greens and wind dried sausages. The clay pot sizzles in the end to develop a delicious crispy crust at the bottom, the part where you never want to share with anybody.

The use of clay has wisdom of its own, it heats up evenly and slowly, the chef can control the heat of a clay pot with more ease. Clay pot adds flavour to the rice, and it’s mandatory for  perfect clay pot rice to have that golden, brown, delicious “crispy bottom” crust, similar to the “skhokho” for pap, or the crispy layer of the Iranian tahdig, bibimpap and paella.

Traditionally, clay pot rice is prepared in an individual pot served as one portion per person

Clay pot truly captured the importance of applying heat correctly to cooking. Slow and steady does it, as a phrase in Chinese suggests “when the heat is there, it will be done”, work on the heat and let everything else come together.

For this recipe, I’ve used to chorizo instead of the Lap Cheung, a sweet Cantonese sausage traditionally used. I like that chorizo adds a smoky flavour, and complements the other ingredients in the clay pot perfectly. Clay pot rice is usually for individual portions, but if you want to cook for an entire family, I don’t see why you can’t treat it as another idea for a weekday one-pot dinner. Give it a try!



Note: traditionally, clay pot rice is prepared in an individual pot served as one portion per person. The quantity I use here is to serve one. If you’d like to make this dish for more than one person, then multiply the ingredients accordingly. From my experience, in a medium-sized round pot, with three cups of rice, quadruple the ingredients I suggest in this article, you can serve four people.

  • 1 cup long-grain rice, presoaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking
  • 2 to 3 bunches of baby bak choy, washed thoroughly
  • 6 thickly sliced smoked chorizo
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, I use the ones from Woolworths, about three to four pieces, thinly sliced.

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1 TBS light soy
  • ½ TBS dark soy
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1 TBS oyster sauce
  • 1 TBS corn flour
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 3-4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, washed thoroughly, you can use dried, presoaked and rehydrated.


  1. Drain water from presoaked rice, add fresh water, must cover 1cm over rice, on medium-high heat, bring to boil, then lower heat, keep checking, the rest of the ingredients must be added when rice is 70% cooked, slightly “al dente” in texture.
  2. While the rice is cooking, bring water to boil and blanch baby bok choy for three minutes.
  3. Once rice is almost ready, arrange sliced chorizo, baby bok choy and marinated chicken pieces on top of rice, cover with lid, simmer cook on low heat for about eight minutes, try not open too many times as heat will escape and affect cooking time.
  4. In the meantime, make this sweetened soy sauce to drizzle over your clay pot rice at the end:
  • 2 TSB light soy
  • 1 TSB dark soy
  • 1 TSB brown sugar
  • 4 TSB of water

THE BEST PART: drizzle sauce over and listen to the crackling sounds at the bottom. Serve and enjoy!

Long-grain rice is preferred over short-grain rice, as they can cook easily, and, after soaking up the fat from the toppings, each grain appears to be translucent, almost like thousands of tiny shiny crystals, add to the beauty of the dish.

Lastly, when you drizzle the sweet soy sauce over the dish, you have to experience the “ts ts” sound as the cold sauce meets the heat at the bottom of the pot, where the flavourful crispy bottom was created.

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