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Hong Kong's best claypot rice
Cold nights, hot rice, savory toppings ... it doesn't get better than these chewy rice dishes during winter
Claypot rice is one of Hong Kong's most popular winter indulgences. A steaming pot of chewy rice is covered in a choice of toppings and served with a hint of charcoal from the cooking fires. The best part of the dish is the crispy rice you can peel off the bottom of the pot at the end.
As the temperature in Hong Kong drops to single digits, claypot rice restaurants flourish in the city. Here are our favorites.
Kwan Kee: Hardcore old-school
With 18 years of experience and more than 30 choices, Kwan Kee is the master of claypot rice. The restaurant is located between Sheung Wan and Central districts, a neighborhood that is rich in the colors of Old Hong Kong.
There is usually a long queue at the entrance after 7 p.m., when the office drones get off work.
The trick is to place your order first, so that it can be prepared as you wait for a table -- sometimes up to an hour. The rice is crispy on the bottom as it should be and doesn’t stick to the pot.
The preserved sausage is quite famous here. It's meaty and glistens in fat, without being greasy.
Another popular dish at Kwan Kee's is the pork bone hot pot, a great alternative for cold winter nights.
Open daily, 6-11 p.m. Kwan Kee Claypot Rice, Shop 1, Wo Yick Mansion, 263 Queen's Road West, Western District, tel +852 2803 7209
Sun Chui Wah: Mix and match
Sun Chui Wah has its focus on young diners who want novelty in their claypot rice.
Apart from traditional ingredients like preserved sausage, or frogs legs and chicken, Sun Chui Wah also does some unexpected toppings such as fried lamb and cumin, or minced meat with taro. For the latter, the taro is made into a mash and scooped onto the meat like ice cream. It has a cutesy appeal.
The soy sauce at this claypot joint is cooked with vegetables so it is slightly sweeter than the regular stuff. Chef Zhang at Sun Chui Wah recommends claypot rice with duck breast in XO sauce. The duck is just al dente. Sun Chui Wah moved from Causeway Bay to North Point in August 2010.
Open daily 5 p.m. till late. Sun Chui Wah, shop CF4, 2/F Java Road Municipal Services Building, North Point, tel +852 5111 1576.
Seung Hei: No MSG promise
There are not many places in Kennedy Town that have claypot rice on the menu. Seung Hei is a rare one and they promise no MSG in their food.
The quality of rice is obvious. It is first soaked in water and then boiled. The water is then removed and the pot is gently shaken so the rice is coated evenly.
Lin, the owner of the joint, recommends sausage with chicken and white eel with pork bone.
Open daily, 6-11 p.m. Seung Hei, G/F, 25 North Street, Western District, tel +852 2819 5190.
Se Wong Sun: Best winter tonic
Hidden deep within Wanchai, Se Wong Sun has only four tables. Their specialty is snake meat, said to be the best tonic for battling the winter cold.
Try the fish maw with snake belly claypot rice and a bowl of steaming hot snake soup. Sounds creepy, tastes delicious.
Snake stew is made with tree mushroom and mandarin orange peel. A sliver of sliced lemon leaf or pepper adds fragrance.
Open daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Se Wong Sun, G/F, Fortune Mansion, Cross Street and Tai Yuen Street, Wan Chai, tel +852 2891 6639.
Hing Kee: Cultural pilgrimage at a bargain
Hing Kee Restaurant is hard to miss -- its branches dominate Temple Street. With more than 20 years of history, Hing Kee is where tourists and Yau Ma Tei's varied community mingles.
The simplest claypot rice here costs only HK$18. Chicken and preserved sausage claypot rice is the season’s best.
The waitstaff must move efficiently to keep up with the high demand. A two-tiered trolley is used to ferry the dishes. The diners shout out their orders to whomever will listen. Everywhere is the sound and smell of eating.
Open Monday to Saturday, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Hing Kee Restaurant, G/F, 15-19 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, tel +852 2384 3647.
About the author: Natalie Deng, who grew up in China, moved to Hong Kong for college almost 6 years ago. After entering the daily grind of finance, she was contemplating an early retirement until, one year ago, she decided to pursue a career in journalism. She enjoys travelling, twisted movies and rock music.