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Cantonese Clay Pot Rice and Target shopping frenzy

Last Sunday, or more precisely at 8AM, as some of you might know, was the debut of Lilly Pulitzer collection for Target. I’ve never been much of a Lilly Pulitzer fan, and the extent of my knowledge of her clothing was that it’s full of bright colors and patterns that don’t belong in my closet of mostly neutral and pastel hues. I’m also not much of a designer fashion fan, just because, why would I spend half of my future monthly income just to have a logo printed all over my bag or belt or shirt. Moreover being a poor medical student, I not only have no income, but am accumulating a negative balance. None of this made any sense for me, but somehow, I was convinced by my friend into standing in line, 8AM on a Sunday morning and fighting hundreds of other women to buy discount designer fashion.

The big  draw for me was that I love clothing on sale, or just any kind of sale, even the kind that I rationally know I don’t particularly need but if there’s a SALE tag next to it, I look twice. So last Sunday morning, I drove myself to Target five minutes before store opening for the sought after Lilly Pulitzer collection. Behold there were almost 120 women in line when I arrived, all anxiously checking their cellphones or calling their husbands who are in line at other Target locations around town. As soon as the door opened, troves of women rushed in, and the adrenaline set in. I felt like I should run too, so I did. But problem was, I had no idea where exactly the collection would be, so I ran with the crowd toward what seemed like the spot with the most people. When I got to the racks, it felt like a mafia of shoppers surrounded the place, and I began to flip through the shift dresses and looking at their sizes. Size 16…nope, size 8..nope, ahh finally I found a size small top. And behold when I looked up from my triumphant find, the racks were completely emptied out. Not one piece of clothing remained. All within seconds.

I was in a state of shock. Having never done competitive shopping before, I clearly did not have a working strategy. Everyone else simply grabbed as many different items off the rack without looking at sizes to save time. No time for civility or pondering. Disappointingly I walked toward the fitting room to try my one top on. Quickly I realized, this is not the end. There is another way. If I waited outside the fitting room for people to discard unwanted items, I could potentially pile up on my hunt. So I watched like a hawk anyone who came out and looked like they were about to discard something, and I ended up with 5 pieces of clothing! Then I figured out another strategy- to stand around the empty racks and see if anyone wanted to trade items for different sizes. Soon enough, I was asking passerbys if they wanted to trade and offered them what I had in my pile and negotiating like a sales agent. With that method I was able to trade for better sizes. Eventually, I ended up with a top and a romper that I bought home.

But after getting home and ruminating over my purchases, I began to regret a little. If I were to simply visit a mall with these clothes hanging on the racks, would I have bought them, or liked them? They weren’t particularly unique or cheap, but just because of the communal shopper frenzy at Target, they became much more desirable. Then I realized how frighteningly influential the attitudes of our fellow shoppers are and how limited quantity can produce such a must-have-it-now irrational mentality and how it can bring out our worst side. Just thinking about the conversation I overheard of two women arguing over who got to the dress first makes me shudder.  Perhaps market economy isn’t so benign, or perhaps next time, I should think it over when someone asks me to line up at 8AM for designer clothing at Target.

On another note, I have found the perfect one pot weeknight recipe to last me the entire week! I try to cook food in large batches to last me throughout the week, but I often underestimate my appetite. Also my Asian mother wisdom tells me that leftover food shouldn’t be kept past 2 days. So I often end up running out in less than 3 days and having to labor in the kitchen again. But this clay pot rice can be made in larger quantity, and I was pleasantly surprised that the rice doesn’t turn hard and dry and inedible after a day.

It’s a Cantonese dish called 煲仔饭 made usually in a clay pot, with sweet and smoky sausages and veggies like shiitake mushroom and carrots. The rice is greasier than usual white rice, and the slightly scorched layer of rice on the edge of the pot is so delicious and chewy when mixed with the sweet sausages. I made it in a regular pot, and it turned out just as good.

Carbs, veggies and meat all in one pot? Yes, please!

clay pot rice1


clay pot rice2

Clay Pot Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


  • 2 cups of rice
  • Cantonese or Taiwanese sausages (found in any Asian grocery)
  • 5 dry shiitake mushrooms (or fresh ones are okay too)
  • small block of ginger, sliced thinly
  • 1 stalk of green onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • bok choy, cooked

Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms overnight if using dry ones. Save the broth for later.

Rinse the rice thoroughly in water and let it sit in water for 1 hr. Water level should be higher than rice by 1/2 inch.

Meanwhile, steam the sausages for 8 minutes until sausages are completely cooked through. Slice them side ways.

Mix together a sauce for the rice with soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, fish sauce, water and salt to taste.

When rice has sat in water for 1 hr, mix in olive oil. On high heat, bring the rice to a boil then turn down to low-medium heat and cook until water has disappeared from rice.  Lay ginger slices, sausages and mushroom evenly over the surface of the rice. Cover the lid again and simmer on low heat for another 15 minutes.

Scatter green onions on top of the rice and turn off the heat. Cover the lid and let the aromas mix for 2 minutes. Then pour sauce over pot and mix rice thoroughly with sausages and mushroom. Enjoy with some sauteed bok choy or any other greens!


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