Most of us today are used to cooking on stovetops with steel vessels, but long before the advent of metal cookware, much of the world’s cuisine was cooked using earthenware. However, while metal pots had greatly improved the convenience of cooking, this transition wasn’t entirely beneficial to the taste and quality of certain dishes.
Many Asian cuisines still prefer the use of clay pots, and not for any social-economic reasons other than it enhances the dish’s flavour and its texture.
Clay pots are a great example, and most commonly used form, of earthenware vessels. Thanks to its porous nature, clay pots can seal in the moisture and allows the heat to circulate through the pot during cooking, locking in the flavours and juiciness of the food; unlike metal pots that would transmit intense heat and cause moisture to evaporate. Also, as clay retains heat better than metal, the clay pot can continue to cook its contents slowly even after it is taken out of the oven or off the stove, so you’d still be able to enjoy a piping hot meal even after an extended period of time away from the fire.
In addition to that, clay pot cooking is lauded for its health benefits. Due to its moisture keeping properties, you can cook meals with less oil and fat than you would have to with a conventional metal pot. Furthermore, the slightly alkaline nature of the earthen clay is said to reduce the acidity of foods.
In Asian cuisine, clay pots are used to infuse flavour into various dishes, such as baked rice and shrimp baked with bean thread noodles. These earthenware pots may be glazed or unglazed and are available in most of the Asian cookware stores and are usually inexpensive compared to those sold in speciality food stores. That being said, some clay pots are meant to be used in an oven, while some clay pots can be used on a stove. If you plan on getting a clay pot for cooking on the stove, do check with the salesperson as some clay pots are not made to withstand a direct flame.
How to use a clay pot?
If it’s a brand new clay pot soak it in water for about an hour or so. This helps in preparing the clay pot to absorb heat better. Clay pots can be used either on a stovetop or in the oven and have the ability to simultaneously simmer and steam.
An important aspect while using a clay pot is to remember that the sudden temperature changes can cause it to crack. So make sure you use it on low heat and increase the temperature slowly. If baking, you can place the clay pot in a normal temperature oven and allow it to heat up gradually.
What dishes can you make with the clay pot?
The best dishes to make in a clay pot are those with a sauce, like a curry, soup, hot pot dishes, and stews. When heating up leftovers straight from the refrigerators, gradually warm up the clay pot in the same way you would for a new clay pot – beginning with minimum heat, as heating it up quickly will cause the clay to crack. Some of the classic dishes include Khao Op Mor Din (Baked Rice in Earthenware Pot), Shrimp noodle (Goong Ob Woonsen), and chicken and ginger in clay pot.
How to wash the clay pots?
The best way to wash the clay pot is by hand, since using a dishwasher may have corrosive detergents that can spoil the texture and quality of the pots. You could wash it with warm water and salt or even use baking soda.
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