Spanish Paella part 1: the basics

I can say with almost absolute certainty that very few restaurants in the U.S know how to cook a paella. Despite being sold everywhere and anywhere here, the yellow rice with a few vegetables and some shrimps that they try to pass for paella is NOT a paella.

I’m from Spain, and having savored hundreds of paellas during my life (and cooked), I’m kind of an expert on it by now. People think that paella is a dish typical of all Spain, but it isn’t. The truth is that there many variations of this dish, all depending on the geographical region of Spain. The most commonly known is that from Valencia, known as paella valenciana. It has more vegetables than other variations, and is made with rabbit and chicken. There is also the paella marinera, or seafood paella.

Two of the most important ingredients of the paella are the type of rice used and where everything is cooked.

Paella means literally pan or skillet. The typical paella pan looks like this. If you don’t make the paella in a large, very shallow pan, then it is not a paella. A pot won’t do.

The rice used is short, almost like sushi rice, in Spain we call it bomb rice because of its shape. It looks like this. If you use long or medium rice the texture of the paella will not be correct, because it is the stickiness of the bomb rice that allows for everything to bind together.

Also, when cooking a paella, is very important to use olive oil only, fresh ingredients and wood utensils.

Curious facts: The paella dates from the 16th century according to http://www.lapaella.net. Also, it is the most known dish of Spain and is served in thousands of restaurants around the world (although many times is not paella!!)

Stay tuned for the recipes on my next post!

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