It’s a complete meal but not exactly a one-pot dish because the chicken was seared and the sauce was cooked in another pan. You may, of course, opt to do everything using a single pan. I must admit that the idea crossed my mind. Brown the chicken in the cast iron pan, pour off the oil, make the sauce in the same pan and pour it into a bowl before spreading the rice. But the procedure is more tedious. Using two pans just seemed more practical.
Although there are multiple steps in the preparation of claypot chicken rice, it is not a difficult dish to pull off. Simplifying the recipe by cutting down on those steps might make cooking easier and faster, but the result will not be as good.
The key here is organization. Prep what need to be prepped ahead of time. Season the chicken six hours before you intend to start cooking. Soak the mushrooms half an hour before you start browning the chicken. Some recipes call for soaking the rice as well, but I have an alternative for that.
I parboil the rice in a mixture of chicken broth and mushroom soaking water. Instead of soaking up water, the rice grains soak up flavor and nutrition. Doesn’t that make more sense to you? It sure does to me.
So, with the chicken and rice already about half done, we make a sauce which will give the dish its final flavor and, at the same time, add liquid in which the chicken and rice can finish cooking.
Saute onion and garlic, and throw in the chicken. Then, you start adding all the good stuff.
Start with soy sauce and brown sugar.
Then, some oyster sauce and, finally, a drizzle of sesame seed oil.
Next, we introduce the chicken to the rice.
The chicken with all the sauce go on top of the rice which had earlier been parboiled in a mixture of chicken broth and mushroom soaking water. We’re building flavors now one on top of the other. And we add some more.
The shiitake that you had soaked earlier go on one spot and sliced Chinese sausages on another. And, the crowning glory, bunches of verdant bok choy.
Pour in water, cover the pan tightly and let the flavors blend during the last stage of cooking.
Is a cast iron pan the only alternative to the traditional claypot? A Dutch oven or any heavy casserole will do too. Just make sure that you use a heavy pan with a thick bottom for that desirable lightly chewy crust to form at the bottom. And you’ll want one that isn’t too deep and wide enough so that you have plenty of surface area to arrange the chicken, sausages, mushrooms and bok choy on top of the rice.
No claypot chicken rice
- 4 to 8 chicken drumsticks or thighs - (about 800 grams) bone-in
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- 8 dried shiitake
- 2 Chinese sausages
- 4 bunches bok choy
- 1 ½ cups medium-grain rice
- 1 cup chicken broth - unsalted
- 1 cup mushroom soaking water
To brown the chicken and make the sauce
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- cooking oil
- 1 onion - peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic - chopped
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
Marinate the chicken
- Wipe the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Place the chicken in a bowl, add the rice wine, salt, five-spice powder and ginger, and mix well.
- Cover the bowl and marinate the chicken in the fridge for six hours.
Prep the toppings
- Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water, drain, cut off the stems and discard. If the mushrooms are large, you may cut them into halves.
- Slice the Chinese sausages.
- Cut each bunch of bok choy into halves vertically and rinse to remove and silt trapped between the stalks.
Parboil the rice
- Spread the rice on the bottom of a wide thick-bottomed pan.
- Pour in the chicken broth and mushroom soaking water.
- Cover and cook the rice just until the liquids have been absorbed.
Brown the chicken
- Take the chicken out of the fridge and toss with the corn starch. Shake off the excess.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, until a light crust forms on the surface (you're not cooking the chicken all the way through at this point).
Make the sauce
- Pour off the oil in the pan leaving only a tablespoonful.
- Saute the onion and garlic just until softened.
- Add the chicken and cook, tossing, for a minute.
- Pour in the soy sauce and sprinkle in the brown sugar.
- Add the oyster sauce and cook, tossing, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Stir in the sesame seed oil.
Assemble and finish cooking
- Arrange the chicken on top of the rice on one side of the pan.
- Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and rice.
- Spread the mushrooms and Chinese sausages beside the chicken.
- Arrange the bok choy on the side opposite the chicken.
- Pour half a cup of water along the edge of the pan.
- Cover the pan tightly and, with the heat set on low, cook everything together until the rice fully cooked (the chicken should be fully cooked too at this point).