Claypot chicken rice is a delicious one-pot meal of tender, succulent chicken chunks cooked over rice. It has an amazing, smoked flavour and a layer of crispy rice you can’t resist!
Today, I’m updating this post with new photos, and a detailed step-by-step visual guide for one of my favourite hawker dishes, claypot chicken rice.
If you haven’t yet had a taste of claypot chicken rice in your life, you’re missing out on one of the best hawker dishes in Singapore.
Claypot chicken rice, or claypot rice as we often call it here, is a smoky hot, super delicious meat and rice meal.
Cooking this in a claypot over hot fire is deliberate, and is what gives the rice and meat its characteristic smoked flavour and aroma.
While it’s so easy and convenient to eat out at your favourite hawker centre, claypot chicken rice is amazingly easy to cook at home over your stove top. And I’m going to show you how!
Claypot chicken rice
Please pardon me for stating the obvious, but to really appreciate the authentic flavours of claypot chicken rice, it really is best cooked in a claypot. And chicken is traditionally the choice of meat, to go with long-grain rice.
How to enjoy authentic claypot chicken rice
Cook the rice until lightly charred or burnt. This smoky, crispy rice is perfectly acceptable, even desired!
Believe it or not, crisp, lightly charred and dare I say it again, burnt rice, is what avid claypot chicken rice lovers go after!
We enthusiastically scrape these burnt rice off the sides and vigorously mix it in with the rest of the dish. It’s what makes claypot rice so unique and special!
As such, claypot rice is always cooked until it lightly chars to a brownish or blackish crisp, but only where the rice is in contact with the sides of the claypot. These are the delightful, crispy bits we love!
So when you cook this at home, don’t be alarmed by the aroma of your rice burning when it cooks over the stove. And it probably can’t be avoided.
Marinate the chicken for flavour, and steam cook for tender and succulent texture
To have really tasty meat to go with the smoky rice, the chicken enjoys a short but very flavourful marinade.
Asian sauces and seasonings, Chinese wine and sesame oil, make for super delicious, juicy and succulent chicken chunks.
Add the must-have savouries – Chinese sausages, mushrooms and salted fish!
Clay pot rice wouldn’t be complete without the essential ingredients of sweet Chinese sausages, Shiitake or dried black Chinese mushrooms, and the one to really elevate the flavour factor, salted fish.
Don’t skimp on the salted fish. Trust me, any misgivings you might have about adding salted fish here will surely disappear.
For extra oomph, drizzle with sweet dark soy sauce and flavoured oil
Claypot chicken rice is eaten with generous drizzles of sweet dark soy sauce and in my version, flavoured shallot oil.
This glorious dish is garnished with loads of freshly chopped spring onions and coriander. We stir into the rice to infuse it with more oomph.
Finally, have your favourite chilli sauce served on the side for that extra zing!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to cook up an awesome claypot chicken rice dish for your family and guests!
While you may be tempted to jump ahead to the recipe, do spare a moment to read the tips here. It might just make the difference between a good and really great claypot rice!
Choice mix of chicken parts
- I like to have a mix of chicken thighs, legs, wings and breast, even the meatier back bones. It’s ideal to have skin-on and bone-in chicken parts. These will release juices and oils, and add more flavour to the rice.
- The texture of cooked claypot rice is somewhat similar to fried rice, loose and fragrant. As such, I always cook with long-grain variety of rice for this dish.
- Avoid using brown or red rice, or any type of sticky rice as these won’t work for this dish. I’ve covered a section below on how to cook the rice.
- For mushrooms, dried Shiitake are usually the standard. They soften and plump up nicely when re-hydrated, and absorb the marinade sauces excellently.
- Dried black Chinese mushrooms also work very well. Avoid using fresh mushrooms, as these will lack the deeper, richer flavour and firm texture of dried mushrooms.
- Save your most flavourful Chinese sausages (which doesn’t have to be expensive!) for this dish! My favourite are Chinese sausages from Hong Kong which I get from my local dried goods vendor. They’re more fatty (oops!) but sweet, fragrant and so wonderfully flavourful.
- The ones to use for claypot rice are softer and not quite as ‘dried out’ as the inexpensive variety. These really have far superior flavours. I find that that it helps to ask your local dried goods vendor to recommend a good variety for claypot rice.
- The hard, dried variety is usually the kind used for fried rice or stir-fries. But this will do just fine too, if it’s what you have on hand.
Asian sauces – light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and oyster sauce.
- Try to use good quality sauces for the marinade and for serving on the side. These really do make the dish.
- When choosing soy sauce, do not use Maggi soy sauce or terikayi light soy sauce. These flavours do not quite work for this dish.
- I am a huge fan of the Kwong Cheong Thye brand of soy sauces. And when it comes to oyster sauce, I’ve stuck with the Lee Kum Kee brand for as long as I can remember.
- For claypot chicken rice, sesame oil is an absolute must. Do not substitute with any other flavoured oil.
- This is optional, but I really love how shallot oil adds yet another layer of flavour when it’s stirred in with the dark soy sauce and herb garnishes.
- I use Hua Tiao wine or Hua Tiao Chiew 花雕酒. If you can’t get your hands on a Chinese cooking wine, the next best alternative I often use is sherry.
Condiments and herbs
- Spring onion
- Cilantro (Coriander)
- Corn starch
- White pepper
Step-by-step: How to cook claypot chicken rice
- Step 1: Heat up oil in a claypot over low-medium heat until hot. Fry shallot slices until they turn light brown. Remove fried shallots with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Don’t forget to scoop out 2 tablespoons of the shallot oil and reserve for later.
- Step 2: In the same oil, fry salted fish until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside as well.
- Step 3: Increase the heat to medium. Tip in the rice grains, and stir fry for 15 to 20 seconds to coat well with the flavoured oil. Then, level the rice.
- Step 4: Pour in the water, and close the clay pot with its lid. Let the rice simmer and cook for 10 mins until it looks firm. Don’t worry if it looks a tad dry, just do not add more water at this point).
- Step 5: Place chicken pieces on top of the rice in a single layer. Next, scatter the Chinese sausage slices and fried salted fish over the meat. Cover with the lid, and this time, let it cook for 15 minutes or longer as needed until the chicken is cooked through.
- Step 6: Once the chicken is cooked, switch off the heat. Mix the dark soy sauce with the reserved shallot oil, and drizzle all over the meat. Claypot chicken rice is now ready to serve!
How to cook the rice: The best rice-to-water ratio for claypot rice
One of the most common issues I faced before when cooking claypot rice was having my rice cooked too dry or too wet.
For claypot rice, you’re meant to cook rice on the dry side a bit. So, suffice to say, claypot rice ideally shouldn’t be as moist or fluffy as regular cooked rice.
It’s final cooked texture is somewhat similar to fried rice. The cooked rice grains are slimmer, loose and separate. They are cooked with less water but there’s just enough to have the rice cook fully.
I’ve worked out a simple but perfect ratio for claypot rice:
For every 150 grams of uncooked rice grains (the weight of rice grains in 1 rice measuring cup), add 125 grams of water.
So if you’re cooking, for example 4 cups or 600 grams of uncooked rice as per this recipe, add 125 grams x 4 = 500 grams of water.
Whatever you do, just don’t be tempted to add more water as the rice cooks. When you add the chicken pieces, more juices as well as oils will be released into the rice as these cook and your rice should turn out just nice!
Can I cook without a clay pot?
If you don’t have a clay pot, it’s not a problem. This really can be cooked in any kind of pot or casserole dish that you can put over a stove.
If you like, you can even cook this in your rice cooker. The rice might not have that characteristic smoky flavour, but it will be delicious!
Here are more recipes to inspire your next meal:
- Three Cup Chicken – Cooking Taiwanese Made Simple
- Kapitan Chicken (Soy Bean Paste Version)
- Fish Head Curry- Easy, Delicious, Make-from-Scratch Recipe
- Babi Pongteh (Nonya Braised Pork in Fermented Soy Bean Paste)