clay pot rice


When my brother was about 2 years old, one of his favorite foods was chicken drumsticks. My parents would hand one to him, and say “hold it!” in Chinese (zha zhu). For the rest of his toddler-hood, he’d request a “hold it!” when he wanted his favorite food.

Clay pot rice holds another similar memory for me: we grew up having white rice with dinner every day, which wasn’t the most exciting food for a child. Occasionally, my mom made clay pot rice with dried fish and Chinese sausage, and just a splash of soy sauce — which perfumed the rice with a subtle, savory fragrance. I used to eat second servings of just the crispy rice from the bottom of the pot. Hence, yao mei fan (directly translates to “flavorful rice”) a phrase my brother and I coined, was born. I don’t think I knew the real translation of clay pot rice (bo zhai fan) until I was a teenager.

My version of clay pot rice isn’t traditional — I love cooking the sauce into the rice (as opposed to putting it on after the rice is cooked), but that’s my preference! The flavors are deeper and richer than what you’d typically get with a traditional clay pot rice.

Remember that you can customize this dish with your favorite ingredients! Cured pork belly (lahp yook) is something I wish I had on hand. Experiment and make it your own 🙂

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makes about 3 servings


  • 1 cup uncooked rice

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 1 large or 2 small chicken thighs, bones removed

  • 1 Chinese sausage, sliced into rounds

  • Handful of rehydrated or fresh shiitake mushrooms (if using dried, save the water it rehydrated in), sliced

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced


  1. Cut your chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces, and place into a bowl with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ tablespoon sugar, ½ tablespoon Shaoxing wine, ½ tablespoon cornstarch, and sprinkle of white pepper (optional). Mix well, cover, and let sit for 20 min.

  2. While chicken is marinating, wash your rice and set aside.

  3. Heat up a skillet on low-medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. When the oil is hot, add minced garlic and ginger, and stir until fragrant (1 min).

  4. Add sliced Chinese sausage, and cook for another minute. Add marinated chicken, and cook until halfway done, about 2-3 minutes.

  5. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms. The pan should be a bit sticky by now from the marinade and aromatics. To deglaze the pan, pour in 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine, and scrape the pan lightly with a wooden utensil to lift these up.

  6. Let the Shaoxing wine cook and reduce (1 min). Remove the skillet from the heat.

  7. Replace your skillet with your clay pot (or any small, heavy-bottomed pot), and turn on heat to medium. Add the chicken, sausage, and mushroom mixture, and add the uncooked, washed rice. Mix well.

  8. If you like your rice extra flavorful like I do, add 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, and a small splash of soy sauce to the mixture.

  9. Add a total of 1 cup (+ 2 tbsp) of either chicken broth or mushroom liquid (from rehydration), or a combination of both (my choice). Stir everything in the pot, and let it come to a boil.

  10. Once it’s boiling, cover with the lid, and turn heat to lowest setting. Rice should be done in about 20 minutes (don’t uncover the lid before then!).

  11. Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat, add a small dash of sesame oil and handful of sliced green onions, and stir well. Cover for 2 more minutes, and it’s done. Enjoy! 🙂

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