Forget the Paleo diet. There are few things more comforting than a bowl of freshly cooked rice soaking up the sweet and salty sauces of a meaty stew.
You could go one better of course, and that, my friends, is the joy that is clay pot rice, cooked over flames until a delicious golden crust forms on the bottom. It's a specialty at First Taste in Campsie, one of the fancier restaurants along the main strip, although it's still DIY tissues and tea thermoses on every table.
First Taste Campsie dining room
The menu is cheap and cheerful with most dishes coming in under ten dollars. Stewed herbal soups feature heavily, with broths including crocodile with pork and dried coconut ($6.90); pork lung with dried bak choy ($4.50) and black chicken with ginseng ($6.30).
Deep fried five spice salt pork chop $9.80
There's an Old Time Favourites section that lists sweet and sour pork and boneless lemon chicken. We zero in on the deep fried five spice salt pork chop, a generous serving of two pork chops that is tender and less oily than you'd expect, marinated in what tastes like a fermented soy bean paste.
Chicken with mushroom and Chinese sausage clay pot rice $8.50
But it's the clay pot rice we're keen to explore. Deciding which one is the hardest part - there are 21 different variations to choose from, like quail with oyster sauce ($9.50) and eel ($13.50).
We stick with the basics. Beef tenderloin ($8.50) [top] falls apart with a melting softness. And then there's the treasure trove of the chicken clay pot, a party of chicken pieces, plumped-up dried shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage braised gently in soy. The fatty slivers of Chinese sausage are the best bit.
It's hard not to scrape the bottom of the pot immediately, but if you let it sit a while, you'll be rewarded with an even crunchier layer of golden rice. I remember my Grandma and I savouring this bit from the stovetop rice cooked in a pot - in today's era of rice cookers this is a long-lost pleasure.
The little burnt bits of rice will probably get stuck in your teeth, but it's worth it just to savour its nutty smokiness, and maybe take a trip down memory lane as well.
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233 Beamish Street, Campsie, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 3679
Monday to Sunday 11am-10pm
316 Forest Road, Hurstville
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 2178
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Campsie - Albee's Kitchen
Campsie - Keung Kee Seafood Restaurant
Campsie - Se Joung
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10/02/2012 12:07:00 am