Why Clay-Pot Rice Is A Signature Hong Kong Dish

Why Clay-Pot Rice Is A Signature Hong Kong Dish

Medha Imam: What do you
get when you combine ancient cooking methods with
China’s most common food? A delectable Cantonese dish
and a Hong Kong favorite called bo zai fan, or clay-pot rice. Medha: I wish we cooked rice like this. Ewa Huang: You can.
Medha: Yeah, I know. Medha: Hey, guys! We’re
here in the West Village about to head to Clay Pot NYC, and I’m here with food blogger Ewa Huang. Now, we’re about to see a
classic Hong Kong-style dish called “clay pot” be made. Ewa: And clay pot is a perfect
dish for a freezing day like this, as it’s
traditionally eaten in the fall and winter in Hong Kong and Guangdong. It really warms you up,
especially on these chilly days. Medha: So let’s go inside
and see how it’s made. Medha: That’s Alex Yip, the
founder of Clay Pot NYC. And that’s Julian Yu,
Clay Pot’s head chef, who’s been making clay-pot
rice for over 10 years. According to chef Yu,
who is from Guangdong, clay-pot cooking is popular
throughout all of China, especially in southern
provinces like Hong Kong. Archaeologists estimate
that people in China have been cooking in clay
pots for 20,000 years. Even after Toshiba released the first commercially
successful electric rice cooker in 1956, many people preferred
the traditional method. The reason lies in the vessel itself. When cooked inside of a clay pot, the rice gains additional
flavor from the earthen pottery. The clay’s porous material
allows the rice to breathe and absorb the flavors
from meats and vegetables included in the pot. But the best part comes
from the bottom of the pot, where a crispy layer of rice forms. This is known as fan jiao. But what makes the dish
so special in Hong Kong? Alex says it comes down
to Cantonese culture, which heavily influenced
Hong Kong’s modern culture. In the 1940s, Hong Kong saw a mass wave of Cantonese immigration
after millions of people fled mainland China during
the Communist revolution. Alex Yip: Cantonese people
are very family-oriented. Nothing brings together a Cantonese family better than a pot of rice. And because Hong Kong is
actually 90% Cantonese, I think that’s why it’s a signature dish. Ewa: So, in Hong Kong,
especially on Temple Street, you’ll find restaurants
dedicated to just clay pot, and they will have 60-plus
varieties of toppings. You can get anything you can
imagine essentially on it, like fish head, liver. There’s endless arrays of toppings because you get so many different flavors ’cause each meat is so different and flavors the rice differently. But in Hong Kong, it’s usually
cooked over a charcoal fire, and you’ll sit at a crowded table with usually other people with you. You smell the clay pot,
you hear the sizzling, and it’s just a very true,
authentic Hong Kong experience. Medha: When opening Clay Pot NYC, Alex wanted to bring Hong Kong
tradition to New York City with a modern twist. Alex: I grew up in Chinatown. My dad and mom came from Hong
Kong in 1976 with nothing, so all we could really do is eat clay pot. We had no money, so we
would walk around Chinatown and we’d usually go to get a clay pot. And then I saw them slowly
starting to disappear as Chinatown was being gentrified, so I wanted to preserve
my memory of my childhood. Medha: It starts with
long-grain white rice that’s been rinsed and washed in salt, and is put in an oiled clay pot. Chef Yu adds water to the rice and brings it to a boil over a hot flame, where temperature control is key. Alex: This is what can
make or break the clay pot. The fire is so important because you have to time it perfectly, and if you don’t, you can
actually end up burning the rice. Medha: It’s also crucial
that the pot sits still while the rice is cooking. Otherwise, it will disrupt
the fan jiao from forming. This is where clay-pot cooking
relies on the human senses, particularly sight, hearing, and smell. First, chef Yu tilts
the lids so he can see when the water is boiling. After boiling, he needs
to check when the water has fully evaporated. After a visual check, he lowers the heat and tilts the pots on two
sides for five minutes each. During those 10 minutes, chef
Yu needs to carefully listen for the crackling sound
of the fan jiao forming. Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Medha: Chef Yu also has to
smell the distinct aroma of the fan jiao to know it’s ready. Alex: It’s really hard
to describe with words. It’s kind of, like, with feelings, it makes me feel like I’m at home. I really can’t. It’s
just a very homey smell. It’s got this, like, aroma
that’s very pleasing. Medha: The chef cooks meats, vegetables, and other toppings and
adds them to the rice, which continues to cook
for several minutes. Alex: This is the part when the rice is actually breathing
in all of the flavors. Medha: Before serving, final
garnishes like soy sauce and scallions are added on top. I’m really excited. It was so amazing to see
how the clay-pot dishes were made and how labor-intensive
it is, especially how… Ewa: A lot of care and
love in these dishes. Medha: Yes, yeah! And how, like, time-sensitive it is. Ewa: So the sauce that he’s drizzling on is like a sweet soy sauce. It’s house-made here, but it’s not as salty
as regular soy sauces. So we have two different toppings. Medha: OK. Ewa: So, I have the
traditional lap cheong. It’s a very traditional Chinese sausage that you find in a lot
in Cantonese cuisine. It’s rich and fatty and
a little bit more sweet than I think traditional sausage that people might be used to. But it’s incredibly addictive. Medha: All right, let’s dig in. Ewa: So, yeah, then you want
to mix everything together so you can get all of the
different textures in this dish. So you have the crispy golden
rice from the clay pot, and then the center of the
rice is, like, soft and fatty from the meats seeping in.
Medha: Like soaking in? Ewa: Yeah. What do you think? Medha: It’s so good. I’m a lover of rice. But this is like all the
different textures in a rice, like it’s not only soft and tender, but then you get the crispy
rice from the bottom. And then also, I really
am enjoying the sauce that he just drizzled on. It’s sweet yet not too sweet, and it just adds a lot of
dimension to the flavor. Ewa: So, if this is your
first time eating clay pot, I would definitely
recommend going lap cheong if you eat pork. If not, I think eel is
really great, as well, ’cause they add a lot of flavor to it. If you’re vegan, vegetables, tofu, and you’ll still get a lot of flavor too, because you can add ginger-scallion sauce, you can add the sweet soy sauce so you won’t be missing out on anything. In the ginger-scallion sauce,
it’s really just ginger, scallion, salt, oil. It’s a classic Cantonese sauce that you find in a lot
of different dishes. Medha: I think I’m more
on the salty-savory when it comes to my dinner
dishes and rice dishes, so I think I’m someone who
would definitely put a lot of this ginger-scallion
sauce into the dish. When I heard about the
crispy rice at the bottom, I thought it was just going to be, like you know like at the end, we’re scraping it off but
it’s not really edible, but it’s actually very edible
and you can hear the crunch. Every time I bite into the crispy rice, it’s very much cooked well and throughout. That’s also very fun to eat because I think in a lot of cultures I feel like when the rice is burnt, they tend to throw it
out or they tend to say, like not use it and not eat
it, but in this situation it’s actually very much
complementing the dish. Ewa: It’s a really comforting,
casual dinner dish. It’s something that you
can eat with friends. It’s something that you
can eat on your own. You can get, like, a bunch
of different clay-pot dishes with your friends to all
try different toppings, so it’s just a very
communal type of cuisine. Medha: If you’re cold,
just hold the clay pot. Ewa: But be careful, because
when it first comes out, it is very hot, so maybe at the end. Medha: So maybe at the end,
but don’t touch it right away. Just, just at the end.
Ewa: Yeah.

100 thoughts on “Why Clay-Pot Rice Is A Signature Hong Kong Dish

  1. I don't see why people complain about corn and brocolli in the rice. Its pretty darn good, especially if the broccoli gets charred

  2. Only had this once so I can’t really judge, but we don’t really eat broccoli. I’m not sure about corn though.
    Also the pronunciation.

  3. If you're Cantonese, you would never tell a vegan that he or she won't miss out on anything by cutting out the meat or dried seafood. That would be a laughable lie.

  4. "in a lot of cultures, when the rice is burnt, they tend to throw it out"?!?! Which culture does THAT?! So much labor goes into growing and harvesting rice that absolutely NO cultures would do such a wasteful thing!! Persians have tahdig, Chinese have the crispy rice part of clay pot rice, Koreans have something similar as well. Wow…SMH

  5. It's a Biryani in Hong Kong style but with less ingredients. Similar dishes but different ways of cooking.
    Only thing is Biryani is a mixture of lot of dry spices & other ingredients & does take a lot of time to cook.

  6. uh huh, rice and corn is traditional cantonese fare….just like self-important hipster chick who talks about her vacation in hong kong and thinks shes worldy

  7. This rice is kinda boring not enough black sauce over the rice and theres not enough crispy rice on the bottom, this is a disgrace to other claypot rice dishes, if you want to try a real claypot rice dish then come to either singapore or malaysia for the absolute best ones

  8. Not a traditional clay pot rice, doesn’t like Cantonese style. It just a American style clay pot rice. Like Panda Express, that is not Chinese food

  9. In #Jamaica that crispy rice at the bottom of the clay pot is called "bun-bun"😁😁 cooked over charcoal or wood fire, not in a clay pot though. Also, clay pot cooking is common in parts of #India #MiddleEast and even #Africa

  10. I understand that it’s a very traditional dish
    But Hong Kong isn’t a village, there is no such thing as homey and nostalgia, we don’t really have clay pot rice so often

  11. They forgot one thing, at the end the meal, sometime you still have the crispy rice on the pot, some restaurant will put broth (or hot water), not too much, in the pot so that the crispy rice can come out easily, that gives you another texture of the rice.

  12. Imam, I am sure that clay pot is used to cook pork, pork sausage before. How can u eat it? Halalan Toyyiban first girl! And what on earth is that sauce made from?
    I hope u get easier job.

  13. yea, IDK about this, these two went crazy on the sauces, like i have never added any sauces to my clay pot EVER.
    if it is done right, the meat and veg should seep into the rice as the rice is cooking, but it looks like they add "toppings" after the rice has cooked…

    looks more like an Americanized fast-casual experience as opposed to the real-deal.

    but then again i only have eatten this in southern china, maybe they do it like this in hong kong?

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