I can’t remember what exactly came over me, but as the day progressed, I developed a craving for claypot rice.
Claypot rice is a Southern Chinese dish that is typically served with diced chicken, Chinese sausage and vegetables. In many places, dried salted fish is also added to enhance the flavor of the dish. It is traditionally cooked over a charcoal stove, as it’s believed to give the rice a distinctive smoked flavor. While the traditional way is to cook it over a charcoal stove to give the dish a distinctive smoked flavor, due to fire safety rules in Singapore, it’s rarely practiced here. Instead, it’s more often than not, cooked over a regular stove. Still, there is still value with earthenware cooking, not just in Asia, but across the world, led, of course, by the Moroccan tajine.
Seeing as there was one well-known stall in Ang Mo Kio, I decided to pay it a visit.
Broadway Claypot Rice, named after the Broadway Theatre (now Broadway Plaza) beside it, once a famous cinema in Singapore, has had a 30-year history, at least, according to food blog FoodieFC. The stall is located in a coffee shop, a communal space where several hawkers rally around – it functions as both a beer garden and everyday restaurant for local Singaporeans. While the coffee shop is small, it’s surprisingly easy to miss the stall itself: the signs display images of Pig’s Organ Soup and Bak Kut Teh, and the stall also has to contend with the physically imposing footprint of the “zhi char” stall, as well as the fame of the stall that sells Chinese herbal soups. It’s a fact that’s not lost on the owner, who touts the claypot chicken rice to diners taking their seats. His strategy seems to work: half of the patrons there dine on his Claypot Chicken Rice.
Claypot Chicken Rice commands a premium in its pricing, presumably due to the length needed to serve – it can take up to 45 minutes, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that everything is made-to-order. I was initially apprehensive, but the owner persuaded me that there was indeed a one-person option, and I needed only wait up to 20 minutes.
As someone who’s bred by Cantonese wanabes (now they’re Korean wanabes), I’ve come to associate Cantonese fare as a kind of comfort food. While my palate will forever be enriched by each and every new gastronomic experience, the simplicity of Cantonese cooking will always be something that I come back to. So, when my food finally arrived, I was just overcome with images of home – imaginary scenes of loving parents, loving siblings, loving lover.
It was good. I’ve dined at more reputable stalls in Chinatown and Geylang, and they had nothing on this. After countless times of eating monotonous flavored claypot rice, where the dark soy sauce enveloped and engulfed the chicken, the rice, and even the salted fish, this was a breath of fresh air. There were layers to this, and I appreciated that. Sure, it wasn’t exactly life changing, but food doesn’t need to be life changing all the time. All it needs, all it really needs to do, is nourish, and Broadway Claypot Rice certainly did that.