Monday, February 23, 2009

I Wanna Grouper Claypot

I really miss my fix of Vietnamese food sometimes, and nothing more than grouper claypot. Sorry for the rip-off picture, that looks more like chicken, shitake mushroom, and mung bean or some madness. Yeah you could even have vegetarian claypots and twice-fried tofu and it is wonderful, an essential ingredient of the mighty grouper claypot.

It's the king, the bomb, the best. I got to asking Hao the owner and chef how the heck he did those things. Aside from his wonderful brown sauce, a family secret, he said "it's all in the bowl."

And darn if he didn't show me. Those clay bowls have a snout at one end to insert a 2-foot wooden handle. The pot is lowered into a circular opening in stove top, like an old coal stove or something, sitting about a third of the way down. All of Hao's clay pots had brass wire on the outside: "Sometimes they crack or blow up and make a big mess," he says. Comforting, eh? Serving was a matter of bringing the claypot to the customer with a side of Jasmine rice, hopefully in non-exploding mode but still sizzling.

Basically it's just a vegetable stew with Chinese ketchup and some meat if you want it, I know, but I want one again. Interestingly, the mushrooms such as the Shitake, Oyster, and Morel came out perfect this way (I'm shakin' like Elvis). And I know, grouper is getting to be an endangered species, but there is none finer than a real grouper claypot.

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