Nirungji: the crispy bits at the bottom of bibimbap

Nirungji: the crispy bits at the bottom of bibimbap

They are always a favourite of mine: the crispy bits at the bottom of the bowl that have toasted deeply and crunchy and nutty and good. Pay attention to them.

I just wrote a piece on fondue and la Religieuse, “the nun at the bottom of the pot,” for the CBC  (you can find that piece here). It’s the crispy cheese that forms when the thick, creamy liquid cheese has been gobbled up by your fondue guests and it slowly toasts to golden crisp. Traditionally, in fondue spheres, it is a pretty prime piece of gustatory real estate.

A rockin' hot dolsot of bibimbap.

A rockin’ hot dolsot of bibimbap.

It’s what the Spanish call socarrat: for Koreans, it is nurungji — beautiful grains of rice that have turned brown and toasted and crispy-caramelized. The bibimbap dish, cooked in a hot stone dolsot bowl, is where to go to eat it.

Take the bibimbap ingredients as they are presented to you in the bowl. Look at how lovely they are. Then, with your chopsticks, take the meat, the veg, the egg, squirt in some gochujang chilli paste and mix them together with the rice — but leave the bottom and side layers resting unmoved against the hot bowl and allow it to crisp up as long as possible.

Glorious nirungji (Photo: WREats).

Glorious nirungji (Photo: WREats).

Korean restaurants will even provide you with a special spoon — and it’s okay to eat bibimbap with a spoon too. It’s just delicious. And that crispy rice is sort of like candy.

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