AFTER the recent brouhaha surrounding the use of cooking wine in an apparently halal-version claypot chicken rice dish, the FocusM team was yearning for a good helping of this classic dish.
Claypot chicken rice was brought over by Cantonese labourers who came to work the tin mines here in the late 1800s. With a deep heritage spanning the centuries, it’s no wonder that the dish is a favourite comfort food for many Malaysians.
Prepared using parboiled rice, rice is cooked in claypots on charcoal stoves before being topped off with chicken cooked in thick sauces.
Scallions, salted fish and myriad of other toppings like Chinese sausage are usually added for extra depth and flavours. The claypot itself helps seal in the flavours as well as create a layer of crispy, almost-burnt rice at the bottom.
Getting this right is an art in itself as the less skilled practitioners will inevitably burn the rice leaving a bitter aftertaste instead of the desired crunchy, crepe-like texture. And yes, cooking wine does add to the aroma of the dish.
With generations of chefs having had the passage of time to fine tune this dish, there are a number of highly popular eateries serving this delectable yet simple offering.
After some enquiries and carrying out necessary investigations online, the FocusM team recently went to check out a highly recommended outlet in Puchong – the Shi Yue Tian Claypot Chicken Rice Shop.
Having been warned of the long queues during peak meal times, the FocusM team arrived just after 5pm and the restaurant was already nearing capacity. The aroma wafting from the open kitchen where the charcoal stoves were firing up dozens of claypots was both inviting and promising.
Shi Yue Tian also serves a host of steamed soups and the party of four decided to share out a watercress soup and the house specialty – coconut steamed chicken ginseng soup.
The former was light and one could truly savour the fresh greens in it alongside the sliced pork pieces and was priced at RM8. The latter was robust and full-bodied with a slight hint of coconut sweetness in the broth, making it hearty and a very pleasant appetiser. Well worth the RM15 price tag.
The main star of the show and purpose of the visit was obviously the claypot chicken rice. Single helpings were priced at RM10 with additional Chinese sausage and salted fish charged separately.
The first thing noted was how soft and tender the chicken pieces were. The dark soya sauce in which it was cooked was also right on the money, imbuing the rice with a deep, satisfying aromatic flavour.
Watching the cooks, it was noted how quickly the claypots were being shifted across the stoves which highlight years of experience in getting the temperature right. Yes, they do get that nice layer of crispy rice all-round the claypot with almost no burnt bits to ruin the overall taste.
The speed in which the two large claypots (@ RM19 each) fully disappeared was testimony to the quality of the food as did the queue that was forming outside the shop.
If one is craving for a good helping of this perennial Malaysian favourite, do check out this humble (non-halal) eatery. A non-descript coffee shop in typical suburbia it may be, but there was nothing ordinary about its food.
Shi Yue Tian Claypot Chicken Rice Shop (non-halal)
11, Jalan 23, Taman Bukit Kuchai, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
Operating hours: Mon-Sun, 3.30pm-9.30pm