All over the world, children fight over it: whether for the popcorn butteriness of the tahdig crust, the nutty kernels at the base of the paella pan, or the toasty edge of Korean nurungji. Scorched rice is a big deal. In the cuisines that venerate it, it’s usually something to eat at home, a happy accident and a byproduct of preparing rice in a large pot on the stove. It’s an essential bargaining chip over family lunch: If the kids behave and eat quietly, they’ll get some of the buried treasure. At a restaurant, it might be worth asking the waiter if, on the off-chance, they have some going spare, but more often than not, it’s already been eaten by the people that know its true value — the cooks. Jollof kanzo, the burnt bottom of jollof rice, popular in Ghana; or pegao, literally the rice that “sticks” to the bottom of the pot in Latin American rice dishes; aren’t likely to be listed on any menu in London. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time, though, until a savvy PR decides to turn Jollof Kanzo into a London event.
For a few dishes, the word is already out. In more and more Persian restaurants, it’s possible to order rice with tahdig or even just pure tahdig — a dense web of brittle, flavoursome grains — for the table. Socarrat, the singed bottom of a paella, is now more than leverage for parents with naughty children; it’s become something of an obsession for some of Spain’s best chefs. Nurungji, or Korean scorched rice, is so desirable that a prepackaged version has made it on to supermarket shelves for those looking for convenience or the comfort of home. When bibimbap is served in a hot dolsot stone bowl, the rice will keep cooking and nurungji will form at the bottom. For anyone seeking the hit in London, here’s the best Spanish, Korean, and Iranian restaurants offering socarrat, nurungji, and tahdig — each as distinctive as the rice varieties they are made with.Read More