As the temperatures continue to sink, my interests in making clay pot rice have grown continually. I truly enjoy how it helps warm my kitchen and cook rice to the perfect texture.
To us Chinese, a good pot of rice should be evenly cooked, fluffy yet not mushy, and and each grain of cooked rice should remain in good shape – isn’t this sounds like al dente? My preferred way of al dente, however, is to have the grain cooked through than firm at the core.
With a clay pot, apart from having some smoky flavor infused from the vessel, I may even make my rice with a nice crusty layer at the bottom. What I need is to char the pot of rice over a very gentle heat plus a spoonful of oil at the right time.
That little trick of adding oil helps not only making the step easier, quicker, but also no fuss. Besides, there will be no sticking to the bottom. To produce crust all over the bottom (my gas stove on low heat has flame concentrated on one spot), I even shifted the position of my clay pot so that every part of its base had more or less equal contact with the flame.
In case you like cooking rice without crust, then it is not necessary to limit yourself to the use of a clay pot. My cast iron and heavy-bottom stainless pot have both proved to be efficient too.
Here is the right moment for adding the oil: when rice absorbs most of the water content, yet still looking very moist, and there are holes (craters-like) appear over the surface, swirl in the oil along the side of the pot.
Cooking rice with a pot is simple in every way and yet it is hard for me to commit the steps to details as I have been doing them like reflexes (after repeating it for years). Still I’d love to try to walk you through as much as I could. The key point is, observation is important especially if this way is new to you because regulating heat at the right moments is crucial in making a good pot of rice.
And, be sure the cooked rice is rested enough, covered, before serving.
A note on rinsing rice
You may use a fine colander to rinse the rice under running water, to me, however I have get used to doing it in a bowl or the same pot to be cooked over the stove. Doing such, there will be an excellent visual clue as when the water is turned from milky to clear. To drain, I’d rest one of my hands beneath it, catching any falling grains from the bowl, if any.
To rinse rice, cover it with several cm of tap water in a large bowl (I use the same clay pot to be cooked on stove). Swirl fingers in the water, stirring rice. Tilt the bowl to drain. After the first drain, again swirl the rice briefly against the side of the bowl but without water, causing the grains to rub against each other. Rinse rice in several changes of water until water comes out clear.
Put rice and water in pot, shaking gently to distribute the rice evenly. Cover.
Over medium high heat, bring it to a boil, about 5 to 7 minutes, when you see water bubbles to rim of the lid.
Adjust heat to low, leaving the lid slightly opened, if water spills. When spilling or bubbling subsides (holes start to appear), about 3 to 5 minutes, swirl in oil along the edge of clay pot if you want to produce a crust.
Cover lid again and simmer for another 5 minutes, shifting the position of pot as required.
Heat off, and rest for at least 10 minutes with lid covered.
Open, fluff the rice with chopsticks or fork. Serve hot.
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