A recent eel rice casserole reminded me of these photos from several months earlier. The casserole, one of several very good dishes at a group dinner in Manhattan's Chinatown, had a crispy bottom. Scraped free of the pot, the browned shards offered a contrasting texture to the eel and the fluffier rice.
Many cultures incorporate slightly charred rice in similar fashion. At Treichville, a now-closed Senegalese restaurant, this rice was an essential component of a predominantly softer-textured thiebou djeun. At the Dominican restaurant Margot, so-called concon is available to complement dishes such as stewed beef, but only on request. In my experience, usually this rice has seemed to be a byproduct of cooking, thriftily scraped from the sides and bottom of the pot. Just once, at a Dominican steam table in Bushwick, did the crispy rice give the impression of manufacture rather than happenstance.
Make that twice: This Sichuan stir-fry counter had obviously troubled to brown the rice and to portion the crispy shards. Only because I passed by at an off-hour, between the after-school mayhem and the dinner rush, did I spot the evidence.
Laoma Ma La Tang
New World Mall food court, stalls 16-17
136-20 Roosevelt Ave. (Main-Union Sts.), Flushing, Queens