Chinese dish to try: Claypot rice

Take a bite out of this Cantonese crispy rice classic

Earthenware ceramic features in many of China’s regional cuisines, partly due to how cheap and durable natural-fired pots are, but mostly due to how well they retain and diffuse heat. In the land of dragon’s breath hobs and scorched woks, a low, even heat is no mean feat and a precious commodity – and it’s integral when it comes to breaking down tough proteins and rendering flavour from connective tissue and bones.

Claypots are used for all manner of dishes, from soups with noodles to seafood stews and even the famous braised red pork Chairman Mao was so fond of. In the case of the Cantonese specialty, it’s perfect for ensuring a bottom layer of crunchy fried rice kernels that have been crisped to golden-brown perfection, while also keeping the top rice fluffy.

For the classic Guangzhou claypot, first the pot is filled with rice and cooked normally before being topped with the flavourings – usually sweet roasted goose or duck, Cantonese-style sausages, tendon, dried seafoods or other strongly flavoured accents – before it’s returned to high heat and a thin coating of oil is drizzled along the inside rim of the pot to coat the bottom layer of rice and help it to fry in the intense heat rather than burn.

The result is rice infused with the flavour of the toppings and a bottom layer of crispy rice that can be mixed with the rest of the fluffy grains for a piping hot meal. This may sound like a winter warmer, but southerners eat this bad boy year-round to fend off the damp, so double down this spring with some magma-hot rice.

Where to get it

Claypot dishes can be found throughout the city, but for the Guangzhou version in a hip modern setting check out Senziji. The ginger- poached chicken is also worth a try.
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