Kids all over the world are arguing: whether it’s the popcorn butter in the tahdig crust, the hazelnut kernels at the bottom of the paella pan, or the toasted side of Korean nurungji. Grilled rice is a big deal. In kitchens that revere it, it’s usually something to eat at home, a happy accident, and a byproduct of cooking rice in a large pot on the stove. It’s an essential bargaining chip at a family lunch: if the kids behave and eat quietly, they’ll get some of the buried treasure. In a restaurant, it may be worth asking the waiter if by any chance he has any in reserve, but more often than not it has already been eaten by people who know its true value – cooks. Jollof kanzo, the burnt base of Jollof rice, popular in Ghana; or pegao, literally the rice that “sticks” to the bottom of the pot in Latin American rice dishes; will probably not appear on any menu in London. It may only be a matter of time, however, until a wise PR decides to Jollof Kanzo at an event in London.
For some dishes, the word has already passed. In more and more Persian restaurants, it is possible to order rice with tahdig or even just pure tahdig – a dense network of brittle and tasty grains – for the table. Socarrat, a scorched paella base, is now more than a lever for parents of naughty children; it has become an obsession for some of the best chefs in Spain. Nurungji, or Korean grilled rice, is so desirable that a prepackaged version has found its way onto supermarket shelves for those seeking the convenience or comfort of home. When the bibimbap is served in a hot dolsot stone bowl, the rice will continue to cook and nurungji will form on the bottom. For anyone looking for success in London, here are the top Spanish, Korean, and Iranian restaurants featuring Socarrat, Nurungji, and Tahdig, all as distinctive as the varieties of rice they’re made with.
London restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars reopen for indoor service from May 17, with the rule of six in place. Customers can check with individual sites to determine their availability and Covid security measures before deciding to visit.
To note: The restaurants on this map are listed geographically.