5 Catherine Street, nr. E. Broadway 212-925-8308
For what one imagines may have been considered a mistake the first time someone discovered it at the bottom of the pot, burnt rice sure has come a long way. Korean bibimbap enthusiasts go crazy for it, paella aficionados consider it the whole point of the endeavor, and fans of the Hong Kong comfort food known as bo zai fan (or “clay pot rice”) swear by the stuff. Chinatown bo zai fan specialist A-Wah offers seventeen variously topped versions (no. 61, with pungent Chinese sausage, minced pork patties, and savory shards of roast pork, is the way to go). The clay pots take a good fifteen minutes to cook, and arrive piping hot. If you’ve never been, your waiter will coach you in the proper technique for maximizing the dish’s superb contrasts of texture and flavor: Drizzle the thickish soy sauce over the top, stir, and tuck into the soft grains from the center while the crust forms on the pot’s perimeter. You won’t need any encouragement to start scraping the vessel and excavating the caramelized crispy bits as they take shape.