The Cantonese LOVE traditional claypots or clay casseroles. These are used widely as well in western European cooking, in France they are known as cocotte. These claypots are loved by generations of cooks and continue to be used today due to their special heat-retaining capacity. In China, the Cantonese use it so much, that a special branch of their cuisine developed entirely using claypots.
Claypots are called “sa-bo” 砂煲 in Cantonese. The longer you use your claypots, the more seasoned and better they are. They will eventually crack and break, but if you handle your claypots with love, they will last you for many years. A new claypot has to be soaked in water overnight before use. Also, bear in mind that they do not like sudden temperature changes.
The Cantonese use claypots for a variety of ways that are not commonly employed in other branches of Chinese cuisine. They use it to braise meat or seafood, to combine rice and stewed meat in a distinctive dish called “claypot rice”, as well as to make soups. Claypots also come in different shapes and sizes. The taller ones are generally used for soups. The broader and shallower ones are used for stews and braising.
You can only use claypots over fire. Using it on an electric stove will not get you the desired flavour or effect.
This recipe is a ubiquitously Cantonese dish: the Cantonese are mad about fresh seafood and it is cooked very quickly in a shallow claypot.
- 2 stocks of large spring onions, cut into 5cm long stocks
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 slices fresh ginger
- 75-100g fish fillet (use white fish such as cod or pangasius), sliced and deboned
- 4 large prawns, shelled if you like
- 1 squid, sliced and scarred with Xs
- 1 large tofu, medium hard, cut into approx. 3x5cm thick blocks
- 1 turnip, cut into 4
- 1 carrot, cut into 4
- 1 leaf of Chinese cabbage, cut into 4
- 1 eggplant/aubergine, cut into 6
- 5-6 snow peas (optional)
- Half a bellpepper (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 dash of white pepper powder
- 2 tsp light soy sauce 生抽
- 5 tbs Shaoxing rice wine 绍兴酒
- 1 tbs Oyster sauce
- Frying oil
- 150ml fish/chicken stock
Serving: 2 persons
- Marinate the fish, prawns and squid with salt, pepper, soy sauce and 1tbs Shaoxing wine. Set aside.
- Heat up a wok with frying oil and fry your tofu until golden brown. Take them out and set them aside. Unfried tofu would disintegrate in the braising process later.
- Pour 5 tbs of vegetable oil in your claypot. Place it on your firestove on high heat. Once the oil starts smoking, add in your garlic and ginger. Stir-fry these with a spoon until the fragrance is released.
- Add in your fish, prawns, then squid. Followed by the turnip, carrot, eggplant, Chinese cabbage. Add the rest of your rice wine, then the fried tofu. Add in your stock and cover.
- When you see steam coming out from the hole of the cover, uncover and use your spoon to mix everything around to ensure everything is cooked. Otherwise let it simmer. If the liquid level is too low, add more water or Shaoxing wine according to your taste. When everything is cooked, test the taste of the gravy and add more oyster sauce or salt if necessary.
- Place your spring onions in the claypot and cover.
- Serve the whole claypot on the table and remove the cover there. The dish is best served with steamed white rice.