L to R: oyster mushrooms, tea tree mushrooms & Chinese black mushrooms.
I should watch more TV. There are so many great travel and food programs and yet I never seem to sit long enough to watch any. In fact, I'm relieved that The Little Nyonya is over. It was fun grabbing an hour every night to watch the show but I got obsessed and started missing important appointments and dinners just to stay back for the show. And for all my effort, the ending was such a bummer too. She was so nice to everyone but so ruthless to him. I hate bad endings.
So yesterday I happened to catch a program on the food of southern China, and I immediately planned to visit China the minute the PMR exams are over. I used to be pompous about my holidays in western countries and avoided China but after the first visit, in 1999, I knew I had been prejudiced. China is so big, every place has something interesting to explore and the food is fit for emperors. What we think we know of Chinese food is just a small grain of sand compared to the food we can find in China.
One of the dishes I saw on the program was a mushroom clay pot rice. I happened to have 4 kinds of mushrooms in my fridge so mushroom clay pot was just what I cooked today. Although the recipe wasn't given, I think my version is good enough to share. Instead of a vegan dish, I added some beef strips to give extra flavor and to make it a one-pot meal that is quick and convenient to cook. I liked it so much I had 2 bowls, and I never eat so much rice for lunch so that's something.
You can use any combination of mushrooms that you like although to keep it authentic, don't use white button mushrooms. I had some enoki or golden mushrooms but I didn't use them just in case they overpower the other mushrooms. You can keep the pot of rice vegan, or you can add the meat of your choice for a complete meal. This dish took only 20 minutes to prepare and cook so I'm really pleased with it. If you don't have a clay pot, get one because it is an indispensable piece of cooking utensil for cooking rice and Oriental stews. I use a 'bioClaypot' my friend B gave me and it saves on electricity and, unless the clay is not as pure as the company claims, there's no non-stick material or aluminium to worry about. This pot has an extra inner lid to keep the heat in, which is why the heat can be switched off once the rice boils for about 2 minutes. Great pot.
3-Mushroom Claypot Rice (serves 4)
A handful each of 3 kinds of mushrooms
300g lean meat (beef or chicken or pork)
2 1/2 cups long grain rice, washed
1 T garlic, minced
3 T veg oil
splash of sesame oil (if like)
spring onions for garnishing
Prep: Trim & wash the mushrooms quickly. I know many chefs tell us not to wash mushrooms, but I can't not wash them--there's all those dirt and woody stuff. Tear or slice the larger mushrooms into strips (not too thin) and lightly squeeze out some of the water, if any.
Cut the meat into strips and season with: 1 T shao xin or rice wine, 1/4 t salt, 1/2 t fine sugar, 2 t light soy sauce. 1 T Lee Kum Kee premium brand oyster sauce, 1 T corn flour, 1 T water & a few twists of white or black pepper.
1. Put 1 1/2 T oil into a heated wok, add the meat and stir fry until half cooked (fully cooked for pork). Remove onto a plate.
2. Heat the remaining 1 t oil in the same wok and add the garlic, fry for two seconds, add a small pinch of salt and then add the mushrooms. Stir fry until mushrooms just begin to wilt. Add the meat, toss a couple of times and remove onto a plate. It will cook again in the pot so there's no need to fully cook it but don't make it too raw too.
3. Put the washed rice and enough water (you can use chicken stock if not using oyster sauce) for the water level to be 1 cm above the top of the rice into a large claypot set over high heat. When the rice boils, lower the heat to medium-low and let it cook about 5-7 minutes. Take off the lid of the claypot and quickly check if the rice is more than 90% done. The water should have been absorbed by the rice. If the rice is almost done, quickly tip the fried meat and mushrooms on top of the rice, level it and cover. If so, switch off the heat now. If not, let the rice cook a further 2-3 minutes, then add the meat and mushrooms and switch off the heat and let the rice sit with the lid on for 5 minutes.
4. Fluff the rice with a wooden paddle to mix the meat, mushrooms and rice. Serve hot, garnished with spring onions and a drizzle of sesame oil if like.