Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spanish Seafood Paella

Pronounced 'pa-ea-ya'.

When i had my first taste of paella at a in a market off La Rambla in Spain, I fell in love with Spanish cuisine. It was more than just the taste. It became one of my distinct memories of Spain. If you had watched Disney's Ratatouille, remember the scene where Anton the food critic had a flashback when he tasted the dish? Having paella has the same effect on me.

However, here in Singapore, paella is incredibly overpriced and more often than not, is nothing spectacular despite their boasts of using Spanish Bomba or Calasparra rice. Marche at Vivocity for example charges a extortionate $16 for a plate of paella. Serenity on the ground floor charges around $50 for a pan for 2 pax. I then decided that the only way was to learn how to cook paella.

First of all, the Spanish rice used in traditional Spanish paella is almost impossible to find here in Singapore. As substitute, I used the medium-grain Calrose rice which is easily found in most supermarkets. As for paella pans, they are also easy to obtain. You can get expensive hundred dollar paella pans at specialist kitchenware shops or you can be like me and get a $15 paella pan at the cheap Sheng Siong Supermarket. As for saffron, I found a supply of Spanish Saffron at Mustafa Centre for $40 for a large box enough for a 50 paellas at least. Paella is best cooked over an open fire so it is definitely an ideal dish for a barbecue.

Recently I made this dish at a BBQ birthday party. It was my sixth time making this dish and it never failed every time. Credit to my 12 year old cousin, Hakim who helped me out to prepare this dish.


1/3 cup olive oil
1 red/green peppers - sliced lengthwise
8-12 fresh prawns
2 large squid - cut into rings
1 medium red onion - finely diced
2 cloves garlic - finely diced
1 can stewed tomatoes
3 cups medium grain rice
750ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron
1/3 cup peas
1 lemon
8 - 10 boiled mussels*

Heat olive oil and saute the peppers in the paella pan over a charcoal fire.
Remove peppers. Saute the prawns in same pan and remove once they turn orange.
Saute onion and garlic until onion caramelizes. Add in stewed tomatoes. Cook for 5 mins.
Scatter rice evenly throughout pan and pour in chicken stock just sufficient to cover the layer of rice.
Allow rice to cook. Sprinkle saffron over rice after about 10 mins of cooking.
When almost done, mix in the green peas.
Finally, decorate the dish with the peppers, prawns, mussels and lemon wedges.

3 rules i follow for a good paella.

Do not allow rice to dry; add in chicken stock continually to ensure rice stays moist.
Do not stir the dish until almost done.
Taste test continually to check rice consistency

For great paella tips, check out:

* mussels are not included in the photo taken as a friend is allergic to shellfish

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