Thursday, February 23, 2012

If It's Not Paella...

What do you get when you take rice, add some tasty ingredients to it, cook it on top of the stove until all the rice is tender and a crust forms on the bottom?

If you said paella, for sure you’d be right.  But you’d also be right if you mentioned the classic rice dishes from a few other places around the globe.

Take China, for instance.  While it might not have a specific name, you can get the popular rice dish at many restaurants in NYC’s Chinatown, and if a restaurant (most likely Hong Kong style) is offering it, it’s simply called rice in casserole on the menu. After trying a couple of versions around town, including an excellent one at a restaurant called A-Wah (recommended by a neighbor), I decided to make my own. 

To start, you'll need one of these...
It’s called a sandy pot, or clay pot, and it’s made out of - you guessed it - sand and clay. Usually just glazed inside and on the lid. Before using a sandy pot for the first time, you should soak it overnight; according to a few other sources, it’s also a good idea to cook a little rice in it to seal up any microscopic cracks and crevices.  I did both.

Wanting to make a version with chicken and mushrooms, which seems to be a favorite at the Chinese restaurants that offer the dish, I cut up a few chicken thighs, as well as 2 or 3 types of mushrooms which happened to be in the fridge. To punch up the flavor a bit, start by browning the thighs and mushrooms in a hot pan…
Then deglaze that pan before adding the thighs, mushrooms and deglazing liquid to the rice (medium-grain) in the sandy pot. For even more flavor, use a nice home made chicken stock, but water will work, and the standard ratio of rice to water (1 cup rice to 1 3/4 cups liquid) is fine too.  It all looked like this, before being brought to a boil and then covered and cooked at a moderate simmer for around 20 minutes…
I think it helps to turn the heat up to medium for the last few minutes in order to get the rice nice and crispy on the bottom. I did okay on my first attempt…here’s what the dish looks like when it’s done, before garnishing with some chopped scallions and cilantro leaves...


  1. That looks like basically the most comforting thing in the world. Chinese sausage next?

  2. @SMcP - Yes...there's a little shop on Hester Street that sells every friggin' variety of Chinese sausage. pressed duck, etc. etc. that I've ever seen.

  3. "it’s also a good idea to cook a little rice in it to seal up any microscopic cracks and crevices." Just don't eat that part.