In many cultures, the bottom of the pot is the place to be. In the Middle East, maqluba reigns supreme, the browned layer of rice holds together a mountain of flavor when flipped upside down from pot to plate. In China, pot stickers combine tender dumplings with a pan sear, forming a crisp crust from which the unctuous filling breaks through. And in Madagascar, the bottom of the rice pot can be the source of something else entirely: ranovola, or burnt rice tea.
Ranovola is a clever solution to two daily challenges: the bottom of the rice pot is often crusted and hard to clean, and local water sources need to be boiled before consumption. By boiling water with the last bits of rice, the water is made safe to drink and the pot is clean with no wasted water. The liquid takes on a golden color (ranovola means “gold water” in Malagasy), and a mildly toasted flavor that can be made more or less intense to preferences.
Having absorbed some electrolytes from the rice, the golden water is believed to have anti-diarrheal properties, and staves off dehydration. Ranovola can be served hot or chilled, often at the end of traditional Malagasy meals, and is seen as a display of care for the health of guests.