In the FuXian Lake district near Kunming, there are many resorts popping up all on this deep, freshwater lake. It’s a summer resort destination for many tourists from the province as well as around China. The restaurants around the lake serve visitors delicious traditional delicacies native to the area. The most popular dishes are Copper Pot Fish and Copper Pot Rice. The popularity of their food arises from the use of simple, local ingredients (the fish come from the lake and Xuan Wei Ham is locally produced in Yunnan by salting and drying pork legs).
Xuan Wei Ham is used in this recipe and is reputed as one of the most famous hams in China; it’s a rich and tender pork, with a lovely aroma, a beautiful appearance and a delicious taste. Although produced in Yunnan since the mid-1700’s, the history of its popularity goes back 1909 when an entrepreneur in Xuan Wei City in the north-east of Yunnan Province to production into the ham-processing business to make this salt-cured and air or smoke-dried ham. Xuan Wei Ham has been a sought after food product and delicacy ever since it made it’s debut at the Panama-California Exposition from 1915 to 1917. This exposition was held in Balboa Park, San Diego, USA to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal.
This dish gets its wonderful flavour from the Xuan Wei Ham. You can find deceivingly small copper pot at a Kitchen Market at Da Shang Hui for around 220rmb. Mine is the smallest size and a cute little pot that would be triple or quadruple the price were it bought in North America. Using the proportions here, the finished dish just barely covered the bottom of the pot but nonetheless produced a scrumptious combination, reminiscent of my holiday at FuXian Lake and worth every penny – er…rmb!
2/3 cup oil, divided
1 cup uncooked rice
3 – 4 cups of water, divided
1 cup Yunnan Xuan Wei ham cut into 1 cm cubes, using the fatty pieces as well as the meat
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in small 2 cm pieces
Coat the copper pot inner wall with 1 tablespoon of oil.
Soak the rice in 2 cups of water for two hours. Drain the water and place the rice in the copper pot.
Heat a wok. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium high temperature. Fry the Xuan Wei Ham cubes in the oil until they are crispy and browned around the edges and have a pale-coloured, cooked appearance. Remove the ham with a slotted spoon and put the cubes into the copper pot, leaving the oil in the wok.
Add the remaining oil to the wok and heat to very hot. Dry the potato chunks with paper towel and then carefully add them to the oil to prevent oil splatter, frying and turning frequently until the potato chunks are cooked on the inside and golden brown and crispy on the outside, which will take about 10 minutes. You may need to add more oil.
Put the potatoes in the pot together with the rice and ham and stir, adding 2 cups of water.
Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil on a high fire. Once the water is boiling, give the ingredients one stir and turn the heat to low. Then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Check the rice at 10-minute intervals and add more water if necessary.
Remove from the heat, place the pot on a trivet on the table and your delicious copper pot rice is ready to serve straight from the copper pot. Enjoy!
Today I prepared many dishes for my party tomorrow evening, and made one of my favourites, a foolproof version of Mexican Rice Salad, which I got from my dear friend Leslie’s running club. It’s a beautiful blend of rice, corn, red pepper and black beans, with the flavouring coming from green onion, garlic, cilantro and lime juice. My Chinese guests will love this dish containing their favourite ingredients. Can’t wait for the party, when the dish will have ‘marinated’ with the wonderful flavourings!
2 cup cooked cold Jasmine Rice
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 stalks green onions, chopped or 1 small white onion diced finely
1 ½ cup cooked yellow or white corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of three fresh limes
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon ground Mexican chilli pepper
Optional: cheese (grated Mexican taco cheese or grated cheddar)
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.