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Claypot rice for the Chinese New Year

Sausage claypot rice. Fan Zhen/China Daily

Publication Date : 21-01-2013

 

In South China, sausages and salted cured meats are flying off shelves, ready to be served at reunion dinners on the eve of Spring Festival

 

The Chinese believe that all food on the table must have the mouth-watering combination of colour, fragrance, taste and texture. Add a little patience, seasonal produce and a pinch of kitchen craft, and you may well be describing a batch of aromatic clay pot rice.

There is nothing simpler to cook on an open fire or stove-top, and the result is a heart warming and tummy warming one-dish-meal guaranteed to chase away the chills on the coldest winter nights.

And, this is the right season for a steaming hot pot of rice.

In the southern parts of China, the sausages and salted cured meats are selling, ready to be served at reunion dinners on the eve of Spring Festival.

These cured meats are marinated in sugar, salt and spices and then hung up to dry in the bitterly cold winds that blow down from the north. There are cured whole ducks, duck drumsticks, sausages made of lean and fatty mince, and liver and meat sausages, among others.

In the past, when having fat on the table was still a luxury, a favourite used to be a whole liver blanched, slit and stuffed with a piece of pork fat. Sliced and served with steamed arrowroot, this was the highlight of a rural family's New Year meal.

The years of plenty are now upon us, and sausage producers are heeding the trend and cutting down the fat. But there must be fat enough in the sausages to make them slowly render as they steam or cook - because that is what makes them so delicious.

There are various regional varieties of sausages, ranging from the sweet, wine-flavored Cantonese links to the more savoury Hubei sausages to the spicy Sichuan sausages. But the general guidelines to cooking them are the same.

Most Chinese families steam them on top of the cooking rice, or slice them for stir-fries with vegetables. Sometimes they are braised with potatoes or yam.

Here is a simple recipe using the seasonal sausages, with tips.

Recipe | Silky Chicken and Sausage claypot rice

Ingredients (serves 4):

2 cups of long-grain rice, soaked

Half a chicken, cut into pieces

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp corn starch

1 tbsp Chinese yellow wine

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 cured pork sausages, left whole

Method:

1. Lightly oil the bottom of a claypot.

2. Drain the soaked rice and then add enough water to cover the rice with about 2 cm of water. Place on a medium fire until rice boils, then turn down on low until water has gone below the surface of the rice.

3. In the meanwhile, marinate the chicken pieces with the seasoning and mix well. Rinse the sausages and set aside.

4. As soon as the water has evaporated enough from the rice, immediately spread out the chicken pieces on top, add the sausages and cover tightly.

5. To get a nice crust at the bottom of the pot, tilt the claypot so it cooks on all sides on a medium fire.

6. Just before serving, turn up the fire to dry off the rice and brown the crusts.

7. Serve the rice with a combination of soy sauce, sesame sauce and oyster sauce drizzled on top. Snip the sausages into bite-sized pieces with a pair of scissors. If you like, serve with some freshly blanched kale or Chinese mustard greens (caixin).

 

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