Lazy Man’s Paella Adventure

I realized that I have not been on any adventurous cooking experiments for quite awhile now. So, last night I went on Youtube to get some inspiration. I was thinking, I have done French (Croque Monsieur), I have done English (Shepherd’s Pie, Yorkshire Pudding), I have done Italian (Carbonara), I have even done Polish (Pierogi), although the last one was me watching someone else do it.

I think it is time I go Spanish, don’t you think?

With that in mind, I began to search for Spanish dish recipes. I saw many videos. And then I saw this dork making a fool of himself in a restaurant in Valencia.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWNdL9embj4]

Hmm, I don’t really like that guy, but I kind of like the idea of a paella. The longer it sits, the better it gets? Then I can cook a ton of it and have it for a few days! So I focused on searching for paella recipes. Then I found a version with Jamie Oliver in it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_li_hbMTilI]

That was awesome! One big pan of paella for the whole village! Seems like this is a national dish level of food. Yes! I’m doing it!

But that video isn’t very good as far as recipe goes, so I searched for more. I finally settled on this one:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-eDbjeTA3E]

I wanted to be sure, so I went searching for more information on what paella actually is. Apparently, there are a few versions of paella. Authentic Valencian paella uses chicken and rabbit meat, while Catalan paella uses seafood like squid and prawns and fish. Basically anything is fine, but you must use paprika and saffron as seasoning. And then you just cook the rice and ingredients in chicken stock until the rice is cooked. Seems easy.

And by the way, paella is pronounced as pa-e-ya. It seems that in Spanish, L is pronounced as I. Martait is not that the L is pronounced I, it’s just that two L together are pronounced like the Y in Yes.


Armed with my new found knowledge, I went shopping for ingredients. Just as well I was going to Gurney Plaza for an appointment, so I did my shopping in Cold Storage where most imported stuff can be found.

I was at the herbs and spices section, scanning the columns for saffron. I couldn’t find it. I was so focused on the bottles of spices that I did not notice a toddler running towards me, and crashed into my cart. Two days ago it was animals, now a human decided to also crash into me!

I think he is Spanish, because I heard his mom screamed “Dios mio (My God)!” while I was trying to help the kid up. Thankfully he was unhurt and did not even cry. We ended up apologizing to each other, me and the mom. Turns out I was right about the Spanish part. The mom’s name is Nura and she is from Gandia, a small town close to Valencia. She is in Penang for a 3 years work assignment and is halfway through it.

A Valencian! Perfect timing! It appears that my life is so full of coincidences! Maybe I could ask her, she might cook paella a lot and knows where those elusive saffron are!

Me: Have you ever bought saffron from here? I’m trying to find it but cannot see it.
Nura: I don’t think they have here. I shop here for almost 1 year and have never seen it. What do you want saffron for?
Me: Actually, I’m going to try to cook paella. It seems that saffron is important for this dish.
Nura: Oh! Paella! That’s food from my country! My mama makes the best paella!

Then she went and grabbed a bottle of Moroccan seasoning and shoved it to me and said: “You can use turmeric, in my hometown, we call turmeric as poor people’s saffron. But you should use this, this is good, no need saffron and paprika! And you should buy Chorizo in the deli, it is Spanish sausage, very delicious!”

Before we parted ways, she gave me more tips:

  • Use tomato puree instead of fresh tomato because it is more flavorful.
  • It is okay to use white jasmine rice, but they are very starchy, so we need to rinse it at least 5 times to remove most of the starch before cooking.
  • Use fish stock instead of chicken stock, she found an amazing ikan bilis cubes in Malaysia that she thinks is perfect.

Paella cooking tips from a Valencian mother. Awesome! I think I can really make it now!

With my ingredients in tow, time to go home and cook away!

I settled on chicken, fish, shrimps, frozen peas, and (of course) Chorizo sausage as my paella ingredients.

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Look at the Chorizo, I think they looked absolutely amazing on the inside! This is the first time I buy gourmet sausages. Previously the only sausages I ever bought were those processed sausages. I wonder how they make these sausages..

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Anyway, here’s the recipe for my Lazy Man’s Paella..

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of jasmine rice (because that’s rice that I have)
  • 1 dory fish fillet
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 Chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  • 200g peeled shrimps
  • 1 big onion, 3 cloves of garlic
  • half tin of tomato puree
  • ikan bilis (anchovies) stock – 1 cube of stock in 1.5 liter of water
  • Moroccan seasoning powder mix

As I am sitting here writing this now, I think Morrocan seasoning makes sense. You see, Spain was once colonized by the Moorish people from North Africa, mainly Morocco. It was the Moroccans who introduced spices to Spaniards and Spanish cuisines, so Moroccan spices on Spanish dish actually makes perfect sense.

Procedure:

  • Boil 1.5 liters of water with the ikan bilis cube to make fish stock.
  • Rinse 2 cups of rice for 5 times. If the water is clear then we are clear, otherwise maybe rinse for a couple more times.
  • Wash and cut chicken, fish and Chorizo to pieces.
  • Wash shrimps and frozen peas.
  • Finely chop onion and garlic.
  • Heat a big pan with some olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic first, until fragrant.
  • Add chicken into the pan and fry until the chicken pieces are slightly browned.
  • Add Chorizo, fish and peas into the pan. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add rice into the pan. Stir and mix well.
  • Add tomato puree and 3 tablespoons of Moroccan seasoning into the pan. Stir and mix well. Flatten the rice and stuff with spatula.
  • Pour ikan bilis stock into the pan. Make sure the stock covers everything and is 1 inch higher than the ingredients in the pan.

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  • Bring the stock to boil, then set to low heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. DO NOT close the lid, and DO NOT stir the rice.
  • Add shrimps into the pan, and continue to cook on low heat until the water is gone. Another way to measure is by smell, when there is a slight burnt smell it means it is done.

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  • Take the pan off the heat, cover the pan and let it sit on a piece of towel for at least 30 minutes. This will give the rice enough time to absorb all the lovely juices still remaining in the pan.

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  • Serve with a wedge of lemon.

I think my paella looks quite like the real thing when compared to the ones I saw in the videos. The thing is though, I’m not gonna find out if it tastes like the real deal or not, will I? This is the problem with cooking exotic food that you have never eaten before, you won’t know whether it is a success or failure in terms of authenticity.

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I suppose I have to make sure I travel to Spain in the future to find out.

Even though the step by step seem complicated, it is actually not. I actually had quite an easy time cooking this from start to end. There might be many different ingredients, but they are mostly just cooking in the pan.

And you see the pan is full? There’s enough for 4 portions there, and by my estimation, the ingredients cost are about RM 40. RM 10 for a portion of European exotic dish, that is pretty cheap, isn’t it?

Anyway, regardless of whether my paella tastes authentically Spanish or not, it is bloody delicious! I love it! I would have no qualms cooking this again.

 

16 Comments

  1. I’ve seen paella on TV so often but have never eaten one coz it’s usually a large pan meant for sharing and no-one in my family likes to eat it, so I don’t get the chance. Yours look like the real thing…but without saffron, the key ingredient…hmmm..I don’t know!!

    • Well, Nura assured me that those Moroccan Seasoning blend will do the trick, so I suppose it is fine. If you can’t trust a Spaniard’s opinion on cooking paella, who else can you trust, right? But then, to confirm 100%, I have no choice but to go to Spain to try it myself in the future! 😀

  2. Awesome! Your paella looks very authentic 🙂 I have been meaning to cook paella for the longest time. It is true that it tastes better as it sits. Some years back, my brother brought paella to me my house for a family dinner. Since there were leftovers, he told me to keep it and it would taste better the next day. I thought that was strange because usually rice is not something we keep overnight (unless to make fried rice). But he was right. It tasted amazing when I reheated it the next day.

    Paella for two persons costs almost RM100.00 at a Spanish restaurant I went to 🙁

    • Maybe the restaurant used saffron and expensive ingredients like mussels and squid and clams and whatnot, and of course for the profits 😐

      I’m amazed you know what paella is though, I don’t think many Malaysians know it 😀 .

  3. Oh wow! This is amazing! I have never cooked paella myself… It needs too much time and I’m a lazy cook (well to be honest I hardly cook). Your paella looks pretty authentic!

    One of my ex colleagues in Suzhou is from Valencia and he even brought the special pan we use to make paella (and it he diameter is almost 1 m!). He used to cook some weekends, he would do it outside of our factory, over a fire made with real wood haha. That makes it even more delicious.

    By the way, it is not that the L is pronounced I, it’s just that two L together are pronounced like the y in yes 😛

    • Oops! I nearly forgot that I have a Spanish reader here. If you said it looks authentic, then it must be true! 😀

      There is a special paella pan? I thought any big pan will do! And yes, wood fire cooked food is always better! 😉

      I’m going to correct my post about the L and I and Y. 🙂

      • Yes, the big pan that appears in the videos is called paella or paellera and it is only used to make paella or another dish called fideua! (you can try that next time, it uses small pasta instead of rice).

        • I just went and look for videos of fideua, besides rice changed with pasta, it is basically the same as paella! Interesting 😀

  4. Woootttt! Your homecooked paella really looks like the real thing! If me, maybe I’ll just chuck everything into the rice cooker, hehe..Gourmet sausages are not cheap, I usually buy (cheese) chicken cocktails to cook with noodles..Hmm am wondering, if we don’t stir, will the bottom get burnt ahh?

    • Yes, it will, slightly. That’s how a good paella is supposed to be. When it starts to get slightly burnt at the bottom, then it is done and wonderful 😀 .

  5. What a coincidence! For you to meet someone from Spain when you are about to cook paella. Saffron is very expensive for a tiny bit.

    My spouse ate paella in Madrid on a business trip and was so taken with it that he bought saffron in UK to cook it himself but he says the ones he cooked also not as nice as the one he ate. The ones he ate here in restaurants he also says does not match up to what he ate in Spain so do go to Spain to eat paella one day.

    Your paella looks absolutely delicious! Did you freeze the other 3 portions after eating one portion?

    • I know right? Sometimes I wonder if my life is like a movie, like you know, The Truman Show? The director arranges for coincidences to lead me to do something all the time 😐 .

      Probably we need to really learn how the Spaniards cook paella, just by having the right ingredients is probably not enough. Now you are making me more desperate to go to Spain 😀 .

      Yeah, the remaining are in my fridge now. Today, tomorrow and maybe Tuesday’s dinner. Unless some friend ask me to share, we’ll see 😉

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