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Home / Chinese Cuisine / Chinatown Complex: Yuan Fa Claypot Chicken Rice
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Chinatown Complex: Yuan Fa Claypot Chicken Rice
By Alfred June 9, 2009
Readers' Rating
(6 rated)
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Chinatown Complex: Yuan Fa Claypot Chicken Rice
Fast Facts
Claypot Rice (煲鸡饭)
Chinese Cuisine
Hawker Centre
Price Range:
S$6 - S$10
Rating Range:
7 to 7.9
Food Centre:
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
Recommended For:
Dinner Lunch
Reviewed by:

Fwah! I tell you, Claypot Rice is really one of my favourite food when I was younger. There are very few food that has all the necessary flavours which can arouse my taste buds to sheer fantasy but this thing that is called Claypot Rice when cooked properly definitely can.

Ok now, let me tell you why. First there is the fantastic Chao Ta(charred) bit, then there is the sweetened aroma as a result of the tasty marinated chicken. Then there are other exotic bits and pieces like liver sausages, pork sausages and salted fish and when you dumped them all into the claypot and charcoal fire it, a gratifying fragrance is what beckon.

For those who don’t know, this dish hailed from Guang Dong province in China and was considered a luxury dish in the old days. China, as you all know is very big and populated and so it wasn’t easy to be managed and amidst the political unstability and social neglect for almost 300 years, there was little progress and so food were hard to come by and people had to make do with very simple food like Dou Sha Bao or Tau Sar Pia.

For such simple food, I know it can cost a bit nowadays especially if you were to go to those branded ones, but truly, Tau Sar Piah is something in the past eaten only because people can’t afford anything else though things can change from time to time and from era to era, and as you can see now it is a different picture.

Well but it is a different story for Claypot Rice. In the past, obviously there were no ways to keep meat for long unless people were to wax them and then also to preserve other vegetables, they pickled them and for seafood, of course it was salted.

So all these well preserved ingredients were actually stocked up somewhere until certain festive days, they’ll take everything out and then cook them together. Now basically they threw everything they had together and cooked it with rice. Ok if you’re wondering why chicken ended up in the pot too then it’s probably because once upon a time, someone wanted something more in the pot and so walked over to the yard and saw a few chickens and so just decided to slaughter them and threw them into the pot together with the ingredients. Well I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine that a lot of food we are eating today were evolved in this way.

Ok now, some 300 over years later, I’m at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre sitting here comfortably. I was awaiting for this hawker to make me a pot of this legendary charcoal fired food. While waiting for it to arrive, I can’t help but wondered, how many hawker food are there that actually requires it to be cooked from scratch after a customer ordered. Ok of course there are things like Char Kway Teow and Chai Tao Kuey, but then those kind of food you only need like 5-10 mins to fry while this Claypot would need something like 20mins to 30 mins so that made me wondered how many pot of rice can Claypot Rice sellers actually ‘charcoal’ a day since it’s obvious they can only make only a few in an hour. Say during lunch time, people would be looking at a hush-hush lunch and so they would undoubtedly be looking for something quicker like Zhap Chai Peng(economy rice). So therefore, that justifies the high price we’re paying for this thing called Claypot Rice, agree?

If you are wondering why doesn’t Claypot Rice sellers cook the rice in advance in the claypot and then just chuck the chicken pieces in when a customers order, then let me tell you that you can get this version of Claypot Rice in many places especially at those Claypot Rice stalls at foodcourts. It’ll cost you something like $4-$5 for those kind of Claypot Rice but honestly if you care about quality, even if it is free you must turn that version of Claypot Rice away. I guess you can compare it to if you were to be sold Bak Chor Mee for 50 cent but pre-cooked long before you ordered, you would also rather pay more for a more decent bowl of Bak Chor Mee, right?

Ok now there are many stalls of Claypot Rice in Chinatown Complex Food Centre and it seem like every corner I turned, I can spot one. Of course if you asked those people who are Claypot Rice fanatics, they’ll direct you to a few that are quite popular and from memory, I’ve read about the one that is run by 3 sisters. Well the downside for those popular stalls is that, like all good things, there is a price to pay and usually the waiting time is long because there are very very long queues blah blah.

Sometime back, me and my family were looking to have Claypot Rice once at this hawker centre when it were housed temporarily at Outram. Then, we spotted this stall and thought that it looked pretty decent with son and father running it. Fwah! I tell you, it were to be one of the discoveries of that year!

My father used to bring us to this little lane in Chinatown where there were tables filling up the pathment and then at the side, there must be like 20 to 30 stoves in some kind of makeshift kitchen producing the most authentic Claypot Rice in town.

Now I not only remember those days but also the taste of the Claypot Rice vividly. We all agreed that this stall that is called Yuan Fa Claypot Rice is the nearest thing that can remind us of that Claypot Rice experience we had decades ago.

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The best thing about this Claypot Rice is that you get a really really well charcoaled rice at the sides in the way where you can take it all out easily. Now I’ve eaten at quite a few Claypot Rice stalls around the island and trust me when I say that this little bit of charred around the interior of the pot is what can realise the potential of an ultimate Claypot Rice experience but yet so often at other stalls, I found it almost impossible to take those charred bits out, and then even if I were able to force it out, it can hardly be consumed.

The meat at this stall is so well marinated that it has this perfect sweetness permeating through the tenderness. The bits and pieces of sausages and salted fish are those things that you really need to know when to put inside the Claypot. Put in too early and it will turn overcooked and soggy, put in too late and it’ll leave you a raw smell. So this dish has got a lot to do with timing and this person preparing this pot of rice had clearly perfected the art of bringing the best out of those ingredients.

Price: $8 onwards

Conclusion: One of those more authentic ones where the seller still insist on old school method of firing the claypot using charcoal, all by himself. Rice were charred perfectly and were easy to be removed from the interior of the claypot. Chicken was well marinated and had a sweet fragrance. The other tiny bits of ingredients just blended really well with it. A master of the Claypot Rice is what I would call this hawker.

Likes: Rice cooked to almost perfection.

Dislikes: Can be a little too oily.

Address Overall Rating

Yuan Fa Wa Bao Fan
335 Smith St
Chinatown Complex
Open 1200-2200

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[xrr label=”Ambience:” rating=”7/10″ group=”s1″]
[xrr label=”Cleanliness:” rating=”7/10″ group=”s1″]
[xrr overall=true group=s1 label=Overall:]

Readers' Comment(s) : 7
Lim Boon Tiong says:

I dont recall ever eaten claypot rice at this stall before.
I have been to the one at Chinatown food centre level 2 but I cannot remember the stall name.

I dont eat claypot rice at food court for the same reason as you.

So far, the delicious claypot i tried are located at Geylang Lorong 33 and also another one at Clementi blk 328.
again…. need to wait at least 30 minutes but its worth the wait. 🙂

Posted June 9, 2009
Alfred says:

Cool, how much is the one at Geylang?

Posted June 9, 2009
Sa Po Fanatic says:

Thank you Alfred for the detailed history and background of what is a truly authentic claypot rice. I totally agree with your analysis, especially about the burnt crust. They are many who thinks that the crust must be so burnt that it is impossible to scrap (otherwise they don’t think it’s authentic) Or they claim that if the crust is not burnt then it must NOT be cooked in the claypot!!….how ignorant. So even food blog about this point! What is the point of a burnt crust that you cannot enjoy? The best is a crust that you can scrap, remove and savor/taste but yet still a tasty crust!

Posted March 22, 2010
foodlovee says:

This place does their claypot rice from scratch.And they variety of claypot rice pork ribs,seafood,chicken and all are cheap and yummy.prices from $3.50 only

Posted March 24, 2010
An says:

Be careful – Chow tar (Charred) is bad for health and can cause cancer. A good claypot rice is well browned to a crust at the side – never burned. For goodness sake please do not misled other with your misguided history. Poor people eating Tau sar piah and dou sha bao? Who do you want to kid.”let them eat the cake”comes to my mind. In any case, Claypot rice is a peasant food (in fact beggar food in origin- similar to beggar chicken) and not a rich man food as they scraped all they can (left over food, meat from rich people) and dump them with rice in a claypot. Only later preserved meat (for winter)are used in it – not even fresh meat initially. Please go do some research before postings misleading information – you are not doing food culture any help.

Posted April 1, 2010
Gilbert says:

Why are some people adopting a `Holier than Thou” attitude in this food blog? For Goodness sake. This is a food blog not a history or scientific blog. Who cares wad is 100% accurate to the dot of whose’s peasant great-grandfather eat during winter in Guangdong and whether charred rice causes cancer. If you want to to be healthy then go to Alexandra of NUH canteen and eat their noodles or rice dishes there. Surely damn healthy and caloried counted. otherwise, go to any primary school’s canteen whose food has been checked by MOE, MOH and approved by the school Ops manager & teacher I/C. also cancer free. Otherwise checkout the stalls with lard laden heart unfriendly Bar chor mee, cancer causing satay and Hep A causing cockles in Char kway teow and blood clogging mutton soups. Yea.. but we are smart enough to do those in moderation. Once a week, can’t kill you right?

So kere’s your dietary plan for the week Monday – Char Kway Teow, Tuesday Mutton Bryani, Wed Or Luah, Thurs – Satay with Muton soup, Fri – Bar Chor mee with extra Lard, Sat- Buffet brunch. Sunday- Seafood big dinner. There you go.. once a week….

We are here for a good bit of fun and reading pleasure. Alfred writes so well and entertaining. That’s the whole point of it. Not everyone can write about good food after they have eaten and also describe it aptly enough to bring across the experience and in an entertaining way that makes many people ( except our serious An) want to go out to try it out.

Dear An, if you have nothing good to say, don’t. Finally, we do not need history professors here, just foodies…

Posted April 28, 2010
An says:

Exactly the responsibility for self-claimed foodie to be responsible in what he writes. I am not here to say anything good but to say the truth. Sorry that does not ring a bell to you. Don’t use the word foodies in vain. You are not there yet.

Posted May 8, 2010
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