My maternal grandmother used to tell us to eat up all our rice because any grain left on our bowls was a day of our life. Being a good kid, I made sure to finish up all my rice so as not to lose a precious day.
She’s still alive and in her nineties, so I wonder if there might be some truth to what she said. Nevertheless, her words still resonate with me so that I have a hard time throwing out rice. With day-old rice I’d make fried rice or toast the leftover rice to make noo-roong-jee, a rice congee/porridge/gruel made from crusty, toasted rice.
How Noo-roong-jee Came About
Back in the day when food was scarce, no rice was left behind—not even the crust at the bottom of the pot. People would just add more water to the pot, scrape and stir, and keep scraping and stirring until all the bits would no longer be stuck.
The rice bits porridge would be served after dinner with some spicy baby shrimp paste, baby squid, kimchee, or just plain. Sometimes the rice crust might be dried out and set aside for another day to make into noo-roong-jee for breakfast. It might be slightly charred, but it would be crusty and hard on its own until it was softened again with boiling water.
Nowadays some Korean restaurants might serve it as a complimentary after-dinner comfort course. For instance, a Korean-run sushi restaurant near us serves noo-roong-jee, and it’s something the Princess looks forward to eating each time we go.
I’ve been experimenting on how to make the rice crust without having to cook rice over the stove and without having to deal with a big mess later. I’ve tried flattening out and toasting the rice in a non-stick pan, but it took very long and was way more labor intensive than I’d like. I also kept worrying that I’d ruin the non-stick coating, have the chemicals leech onto the rice crust, or set off the fire alarm.
Fortunately, I’ve come up with a simpler oven method to make the toasted rice crust that can later be boiled to make the noo-roong-jee.
Toasting the rice crust
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Flatten out rice on parchment paper. I usually just use a rice paddle to smash it. (Dip in water first to keep it from sticking to paddle.) You might prefer to roll it out with a rolling pin, but be sure to put another sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap between the rice and rolling pin and toss out the in-betweener before putting the baking sheet into the oven. (Aim for a 1 cm thickness or less.)
3) Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until edges are slightly brown. Remove from oven, flip over, and smash down a little more. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until rice patties are golden brown. They are done when there isn’t any softness or pliancy. Think hardtack.
4) Cool and store in airtight container.
2) Break rice crust into small pieces (about 1-2 cups worth), let it boil about 10-15 minutes, and then turn down heat. Simmer about 15-20 minutes more, while stirring occasionally to keep rice from sticking to bottom.
3) The noo-roong-jee is ready to serve when the rice bits are softened/chewy (I prefer it a little harder than al dente; some people it like it softer) and the water is thickened from the rice bits.
You can eat it plain, have it with one of the spicy/salty banchans listed above, or have it with some bacon (which is the Princess’s favorite).
(Last updated 2/10/16)