Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Claypot Cooking

Back to some cooking. Today I’m cooking with a clay pot. I’ve been wanting to do this since my trip to Vietnam in January where many of their dishes are presented in beautiful clay pots. One of my favorite dish I ate was called Ca Kho To, or Caramel Fish.

The claypots in Vietnam are actually more beautiful than what you can find in the Asian stores in the United States. The Vietnamese pots are often darker, almost like iron. In Chinatown, you can get decorative glazed Japanese claypots or the commonly found ones (pictured above) that are porous with a glazed interior and cover. My mom bought me a decorative Japanese version a year ago but I misused it and it cracked. So not wanting to crack another expensive one, I’m starting out with the cheaper, plain clay versions. I bought the above for $3 in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

So you probably can guess that claypots are fragile for cooking. But it provides an even heat source and it’s so pretty you can place the pot right on your table and start eating.

Because of my past experience with the cracked claypot, I’m especially careful not to tempt fate this time around. So I practice the following rules I’ve read on various discussion boards:

1) After you buy your claypot, soak it in water overnight before you use it the first time.
2) When placing on heat, bring the heat up gradually instead of placing it on a high heat. (To play it safer, one person recommends that you put your claypot in the oven and let it slowly get hot before using it on the stovetop.)
3) Never cook your claypot over high heat.
4) If you haven’t used your claypot for awhile, soak it again for a few hours. This is especially true if you live in dry arid places or during the winter when there’s not much moisture in the air.

Feel confident now about cooking with a claypot? Then try the recipe below. Enjoy!

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