Dinner for one? Clay pot rice is a customizable, filling option packed with flavor

This dish, which is traditional in Hong Kong, is endlessly riffable and a great use of leftover protein and veggies

Published August 5, 2021 5:10PM (EDT)

Seafood rice claypot (Didier Marti/Getty Images)
Seafood rice claypot (Didier Marti/Getty Images)

Cooking for yourself can sometimes feel like one of the most difficult, energy-draining tasks. A majority of recipes yield multiple servings, plus it may not feel entirely worth it to spend hours on a meal that you quickly finish on your own.

Luckily, there's a perfect dish for one, which also happens to be one of my favorites: clay pot rice. 

Clay pot rice is a signature dish in Hong Kong, which is almost endlessly riffable (some food historians estimate that there are more than 20-plus traditional flavors of Cantonese clay pot rice) depending on your ingredient preferences. Popular add-ins include boiled and sliced chicken, braised duck, Chinese sausage, spareribs, mushrooms and other vegetables.

The result is comforting and flavorful, as well as perfect for a party of one. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you start experimenting with clay pot rice:

Preparing your clay pot

Clay pots of varying sizes can be purchased online and at many Asian supermarkets, but it's important to take a little time to properly season and clean your pot before you start making dinner.

As Food & Wine wrote in 2020, to properly season your clay pot, you'll want to "combine a 4:1 ratio of cool water and cooked white rice to fill the pot halfway. Set the pot over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, and adjust heat to maintain a gentle bubble until the rice softens into a porridge. Turn off heat, and let stand until cool."

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At that point, discard the porridge and allow the pot to completely cool before cleaning it with a soft sponge and lukewarm water. Be sure not to use soap on partially glazed or unglazed pots. 

Can't find a clay pot? No worries. You can often mimic the exact same recipes using a rice cooker! 

Cooking in a clay pot

Above all, cooking in a clay pot is convenient. Typically, you soak the rice in the pot itself for 30 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, you can prepare other elements of the dish. This recipe we like from The Woks of Life recommends preparing a sauce that is a mixture of regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and white pepper. 

While the rice is soaking, you can also slice up some of the flavorful add-ins, such as scallions, ginger, choy sum and Chinese sausages (which can typically be found in the butcher's section of your local Asian market). 

After you soak the rice, then begins the actual cooking, which is a quick, but gradual process of adding ingredients to the simmering pot on the stovetop: the cured meat, the sauce and finally your vegetables. When everything is cooked, pour the mixed sauce and spread the chopped scallion over the top. 

All in all, it takes about 15 minutes of actual cooking time, which is perfect for a weeknight dinner for one. It's also a great, inexpensive use for any leftover proteins or vegetables that you have in your refrigerator. 

The end result 

The rice tastes crispy, and the claypot gives the entire dish a really appealing smoky flavor. The aromas of Chinese sausage, choy sum and soy sauce blend perfectly in this one dish, while the warm temperature makes you feel fulfilled and relaxed. 

For some additional inspiration, check out this recipe for Top Chef winner Hung Huynh's claypot rice from Food & Wine and Diana Yen's Bo Zai Fan (Chinese chicken and mushroom clay pot rice) from Bon Appetit.

For more dishes that are easy-to-customize, check out these recipes:

By Chuyan Jiang

MORE FROM Chuyan Jiang

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Chinese Food Clay Pot Clay Pot Rice Food Hong Kong Recipe Rice