On September 20th, paella enthusiasts celebate the famous arroz dish - so let’s shine a spotlight on the most important ingredient, perhaps surprisingly, it’s the rice!
With this year's World Paella Day and the Paella Day Cup on the horizon, we take a look at the most important ingredient of the dish and, believe it or not, it's the humble rice.
On September 20th paella enthusiasts and cooks celebrate the famous rice dish from Valencia. While the traditional Valencian style paella is meat-and-vegetable based, 12 international chef finalists from around the world are competing with their own recipes to win the coveted Paella Day Cup. One thing that they agree on - the correct rice is key to success.
In Spain, the type of rice used in most dishes is the short, round grain rice known as bomba. An important characteristic of this little grain is that it can absorb a lot more liquid - and flavor - than other types of rice without becoming sticky or mushy. Other, similar varieties of short-grain rice also used in paella are the senia or bahia rice, which tend to impart a creamy texture to the paella. There’s also the calasparra, with its own DO growing region in Murcia.
Whereas a rice dish like risotto needs stirring to break down the grain walls and create texture, a paella should not be stirred once the stock or water is added. This is to allow the rice to absorb liquid slowly as it cooks, without disintegrating or being over-saturated. Instead of stirring, the paella pan can be shaken in sharp circular movements every so often, to keep the rice from sticking too much, until the liquid is almost absorbed. The final part of the preparation is to let it rest and continue to absorb flavor until it is time to serve. That’s why you need to allow at least 20 minutes to cook paella rice - timing is everything. You’ll know when you’re eating a good paella - as the result is simply delicious!