Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Which Claypot Chicken Rice in Chinatown Complex Food Centre?

This is the second time I am blogging about Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice in Chinatown Complex. The last time was "for information only", this time I am recommending it. I normally don't recommend an eatery on my first blog post about it. If I still like an eatery after a few revisits, I will then write a recommendation.

Ms Teng who hails from Hong Kong worked at Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice for nearly two decades, first as an employee, and now as the owner when her former boss retired. Many fans said that Ms Teng has mastered the skills of clay pot chicken rice from her sifu (master) well. Word has it that Ms Teng's master was also the teacher of Lian He Ban Ji, the most famous clay pot rice stall in Chinatown Complex, if not Singapore.

Ms Teng cooks her clay pot chicken rice from scratch (i.e. padi grains) over a gas stove in her dingy little stall. I have to admit that I was prejudiced in favour of clay pot rice cooked over charcoal stoves (like Lian He Ben Ji). It didn't help that Zhao Ji is tucked away in a dark corner, hidden by a large pillar in the Green Zone which Chinatown residents called the "lonely valley" 憂憐峽谷 of Chinatown Complex.

That was why, even though my taste buds told me that Zhao Ji clay pot rice was delicious, it still took more than 5 tastings before I decided to recommend it.

Here are the few things that convinced me about Zhao Ji's clay pot chicken rice.

The little chunks of chicken were so tender and juicy, it's like those at Hainanese chicken rice stalls. The smooth juicy meat was sweet with a bit of savouriness from the marinade.

The slices of Cantonese wax sausage added a layer of savouriness to complement the savoury dark soy sauce drizzled over the pot of rice.

Then, there is savoury saltiness from salted fish.

Ms Teng uses salted Mackerel fish from Indonesia which she cut and drops into the clay pot rice when it is nearly cooked. The salted Mackerel "melts" and infuses the entire pot of rice with another layer of savouriness and aroma.

Like any clay pot rice stall, additional dark soy sauce and aromatic oil are provided so that we can boost the level of savouriness, aroma and grease to our liking.

Stir and fold everything in the pot over and over. It's not pretty but a wonderful blend of layers of savouriness from dark soy sauce, waxed sausage, and salted fish mixed with sweetness from the rice and chicken. There is also a touch of delicate tangy sweet Chinese cooking wine taste.

There will be a charred and browned layer at the sides and bottom of the clay pot. The way to enjoy clay pot rice is to mix the browned parts with the rest of the rice, chicken etc. It adds a layer of toasty flavour and also gritty crisp texture to the dish, making it more interesting. Just discard the charred bits.

4-Stars (out of 5). It took me a year and more than 5 tastings before I overcome my own bias against gas cooked clay pot chicken rice. Zhao Ji gas cooked clay pot chicken rice in Chinatown Complex actually beats some charcoal cooked versions in flavour, aroma and texture by quite a margin.

Restaurant name: Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice 釗记砂煲飯 
Address: Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, 335 Smith Street, #02-053, Green Zone, Singapore 050335  
GPS: 1.282668, 103.842873 
Tel: 6221 9449 (good idea to call in advance to book)
Hours: 12:00pm to 7:00pm (closed on Monday)

Non Halal    

Date: 17 Apr 2018  

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  1. In your opinion, is this better the Malaysia Boleh at Jurong point?

    1. I prefer this as the flavours are more interesting and chicken is more tender.

  2. Erratic opening days. Went twice and both times they were closed for 7 days at a stretch


I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't. All comments with genuine identities are published.

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