A delightful pot of gold
There's a story of how claypot rice came about. A humble highway-stop eatery honoured their rich travellers by cooking this decadent rice meal.
It had meat, sausages, and vegetables - and was something of a luxury back in the day in China. Nice.
But not all who sell claypot rice are exactly at the bottom of the economic ladder here.
It's well loved, difficult to perfect, and not quite a budget meal that is adored by many foodies.
"I worked and learned for six years from my bosses (at Geylang Claypot Rice restaurant at Lorong 33 Geylang) before I had the guts to strike out on my own," admits Mr Pan Nip Chang, as he mans the 13 wood-and-gas stoves with his wife, Madam Tan Choon Lin.
The couple have been running their stall for 10 years.
FIRE AND GAS
If you've tried making this at home over your low-fire gas stove, you may have noticed that the grains at bottom of the pot turn black and lose quite a bit of that signature aroma of roasted rice.
But masters like Mr Pan first cook the rice in gas-fired stoves before caressing it with a gentle wood fire to yield that golden brown "fan chiew" or roasted bottom layer of rice.
This is where the entire pot of claypot rice gets its distinct fragrance from.
Mr Pan's toppings of soy- and oyster-sauce marinated chicken chunks, meat and liver sausages, salted fish and greens is a reminder of just how well he learnt from his teachers in Geylang.
They are very similar. But being sited in an edge-of-town hawker centre meant "I have to cater to the budget conscious who want to eat or even share single portion versions", says Mr Pan.
He is one of the few hawkers I know who will cook a single generous $5 portion just like they would a $15 order.
You have to wait up to 30 minutes for it. "But I have many regulars who don't mind the wait," he says.
When I drizzled the black soy sauce and flavoured oils onto my $15 order, it felt so right - from colour to aroma to texture.
The fragrant, softly al dente grains had bits of 'kum heong' (Cantonese for golden fragrance) salted fish, savoury chicken chunks, sausages and greens. Stir the bottom of the pot and you get bits of crunchy crispy toasty grains.
Delightful, to say the least.
Yew Chuan Claypot Rice
Yew Chuan Claypot Rice
- #01-56, Golden Mile Food Centre, 505, Beach Road
- Noon to 10pm (Mondays to Fridays), 4pm-10pm (Saturdays and Sundays), closed on Thursdays
MAKANSUTRA, FOUNDED BY KF SEETOH, IS A COMPANY THAT CELEBRATES ASIAN FOOD CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE. IT PUBLISHES FOOD GUIDES IN AND AROUND THE REGION, PRODUCES A FOOD SERIES, DEVELOPS INTERACTIVE MOBILE CONTENT AND SERVICES, OPERATES FOODCOURTS AND EATERIES, ORGANISES FOOD TOURS AND EVENTS, AND CONSULTS ON CULINARY CONCEPTS.