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Pretty good HK-style clay pot rice (bou zai faan 煲仔飯) @ Clay Pot Cafe

This place opened over the summer in the old King Fung location at the former gas station on Kneeland and Hudson. Same room, no renovations. We just tried a couple pots of rice, not bad at all. It's pretty heavy on the seasoning/oil end of things- not a style where you can add your own sauce and appreciate the flavor of plain rice. It comes to the table fully seasoned, and they even stir it up for you unless you ask them not to. Also, if you get chinese sausage, it comes thinly sliced instead of with big links, which was surprising to me. The burnt layer at the bottom is pretty good, partly owing to the heavy dose of oil added to the whole thing. Their special is an extra-large pot with eel rice- there was a table next to us that had gotten this, and added some hot water at the end to get all the bits.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone got the non-rice dishes. I couldn't tell if any of them are particularly good, or just filler to appeal to people who don't want to eat a clay pot rice-only specialist.

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  1. tried a few dishes off the menu (taishan dumpling soup, five flavors chicken, taishan stir-fry, etc) and they were good but nowhere near as good as the clay pot rice. especially the clay pot rice with chinese sausage and bacon

    11 Replies
    1. re: galangatron

      Yelp reports are not promising, but the Chinese sausage and bacon doesn't seem to fare as poorly as the others.

      1. re: galangatron

        I tried this a couple of weeks ago and haven't had a chance to post. I loved the menu but was a little disappointed in the clay pot rice itself. i got the chicken with chinese sausage clay pot. The rice was fine but the chicken was the boniest bits of remains when the good meat is taken off for other dishes. I've had better experiences as Wings Kitchen and Hong Kong Eatery. That said, their clay pot list is more extensive and perhaps I came on a bad day.

        1. re: gourmaniac

          Was the rice anything like Hainanese chicken rice? is it more sticky/glutinous?

          1. re: Prav

            Neither really. It's nonglutinous rice cooked in a clay pot in the oven with bits of meat or fish such that the bottom is nice a crispy. The rice absorbs the flavor and fat of the meats which is why chinese sausage and bacon work particularly well. A traditional combination is bone on chicken, chinese sausage and black mushroom. Clay pot cafe also has frog and eel, which are harder to find.

            1. re: Prav

              Clay pot rice uses regular long-grain white rice. The deliciousness comes in the cooking in a clay pot which gives it a slightly smokey flavor if cooked properly over a flame. Usually there is a seasoned soy sauce poured on top, with whatever toppings that seep into the rice and add more flavors. And of course, there should be a layer of crisp rice at the bottom.

              1. re: Prav

                For the sticky short-grain version, a similar and exceptional dish is the dungeness crab with xo sauce and sticky rice casserole at Bubor Cha Cha.

                (the green goop on rice in the 2nd pic are crab brains, ceremoniously spooned out by the server)

                 
                 
                1. re: Nab

                  Mmm...that looks good! Traditional bo zai faan is a little different - in Hong Kong you see little eateries that specialize in this. The outside is normally manned by a chef who is heating a number of small clay pots on individual gas burners that line the entrance (I saw one place that looked like he had dozens going at the same time), and it gets served to the customer directly in the whole clay pot. It's a winter specialty that normally starts going around this time of the year. :)

              2. re: gourmaniac

                I liked the salty chicken one, I only ordered it because I wanted bony bits (the chicken itself looks like roadkill when it's preserved, totally flattened and dried out). I really wanted rib bits but didn't see it on the menu. If you don't want bones, yeah, don't get that.

                1. re: Luther

                  Does the salty chicken claypot have salted fish in it?

                  1. re: Crazy Egg

                    Nope, no salty fish. Just chicken and green onion, plus the oil/soy seasoning.

                  2. re: Luther

                    My issue wasn't the bones but the low quality of the meat on the bones. Would have preferred more dark meat and skin and not chicken ribs with a little connective tissue and white meat attached.

              3. Not a bad idea to call them off of stirring it up so soon to let that bottom crisp up some more.

                The glug of oily seasoning adds a good bit of flavour but it's a relatively simple, subtle dish, in any permutation. Which is not to say not quite enjoyable. I often have a hankering for a simple meat'n'rice bowl and this will do the trick, the trademark Taishan yellow eel bowl is a delight. I'm told that the particular species of eel here is quite a bit larger and different in flavour than Taishan but those tiny bits of chew strewn about crispy rice were as comfy as it gets.

                 
                 
                1. How long has it been since that location was a gas station?

                  1. Reviving for a mini-review:

                    Finally hit this last night with a friend. Busy at Friday night around 6:30pm and we snagged the last table. Small space, so hard not to be packed I suppose.

                    Ordered two clay pots with rice - frog and yellow eel - and also a pig stomach with black pepper. The pig stomach came out sizzling hot and surprisingly good. Nice black pepper flavor, but a small dish. Good for sharing with someone else over clay pot rice dishes. Not great for a larger party doing family style dining.

                    Clay pots took a while but were tasty. A good amount of rice with the crisp bottom, but they were kind of skimpy on the meat/toppings. Most places I've had clay pot rice probably offers 1/3 more of the toppings on it. The frog is usually small bites, but this seemed chop to really tiny bits, so the extra tiny bones were an annoyance. The eel was tasty but sliced to slivers. If they didn't tell me it was eel, there was no way you would recognize it as such. No one stirred my rice for me.

                    Again, tasty and I would go back if I were in the mood for clay pot rice, but room for improvement. On a side note, my DC and I weren't sure of what we wanted so we ordered one small rice first and the pig stomach dish. The server asked us this was for both of us, and giving us some side eye in a rude way. We had to clarify that we were likely going to add more, but really?