Paella rice is an essential ingredient in the world famous rice dish, paella. Paella is renowned throughout the world, originating from the Valencia region, in the east of Spain. Nowadays, paella is eaten all over Spain and is becoming more and more popular in the rest of the world. Like many popular recipes, paella was originally a farmer’s dish. It originated in its present form in the 19th century and was made in a pan over an open fire. Paella was made with ingredients that were available at that moment.
Table of contents
- Worldfamous in lots of varieties
- Introduced by Moors
- Absorption capacity and firmness
- Rice types from Spain
- Arroz Bomba
- Arroz Senia and Arroz Bahia
- Arroz Calasparra
Worldfamous in lots of varieties
Besides this ‘Paella de Marisco,’ there are the vegetarian ‘Paella de Verduras’ and the black ‘Arroz Negro’: black paella made with squid ink. No matter what variety you prepare, rice is the key to a great paella. Therefore, always choose good quality paella rice!*
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Introduced by Moors
It was the Moors who introduced rice cultivation in Spain. The Spanish word for rice is arroz. This comes from the Arabic word ‘al’arz.’ After the Romans built the irrigation systems around Valencia, the Moors further improved them to turn their kingdoms into productive agricultural areas. Over the centuries, Valencia’s cuisine and culture have developed around rice.
Absorption capacity and firmness
Paella rice is one of the essential ingredients for paella. It is the quality of the rice that determines the overall taste of the dish. There are many different types of paella rice. Due to differences in length, structure and absorption capacity, not all of these are suitable for paella.
Do you want to cook a great paella? Then make sure you have an excellent quality paella rice, preferably cultivated in the Valencian region. Its compact and round shape characterizes the best paella rice. This rice has a better absorption capacity when it comes to the liquid (or broth) in which it is cooked.
Paella rice stays firm during and after cooking. Due to the high absorption capacity, the rice absorbs the taste of the broth very well. As a result, the paella gets a full taste. This type of rice does not stick together when it is cooked. Some popular types of rice, like basmati rice, do. Therefore, these types of rice are not suitable for the preparation of paella.
Rice types from Spain
The scientific term for rice is ‘Oryza sativa.’ There are three basic types of rice grain: short grain (Japonica), long grain (Indica) and medium grain (hybrid). Long-grain and brown rice make up a tiny percentage of the rice that is grown in Spain. Traditional varieties grown and eaten in Spain are the short, almost round varieties. These types are very suitable for classic Spanish rice dishes, such as paella.
Spain has three large rice areas: Albufera near Valencia, Calasparra near Murcia and delta of the Ebro, located between Barcelona and Valencia. The rice areas near Valencia and at the Ebro Delta are also important bird sanctuaries.
Arroz Bomba is the most well known and most exclusive type of paella rice. Bomba rice has a short, almost round grain with a pearly color. It is slightly similar to Arborio rice, which is used in Italian risotto. The difference to risotto rice is that after cooking paella rice should not be creamy. Paella rice should be slightly dry and grainy.
Bomba rice absorbs almost three times its volume in moisture. This is a lot more than the average grain of rice, which only absorbs twice its volume. Additional to absorbing a lot of moisture, this rice also absorbs lots of flavors. So no surprise that Bomba rice is favorite among many chefs.
Another difference is the way the Bomba rice expands during cooking. Instead of cracking open lengthwise, the grain cracks open crosswise. This gives cooked rice almost three times as much volume as non-cooked rice. If you use this type of paella rice, you will need to use nearly three times more moisture than rice.
Arroz Senia and Arroz Bahia
Senia and Bahia rice are rice varieties that are slightly similar to Bomba rice. These types of rice also absorb quite a lot of moisture and retain its firm structure after cooking. These rice varieties are priced on a lower level than Bomba rice. Because of this, they are the most grown rice types in Spain.
Arroz Senia and Arroz Bahia types are the most used paella rice types and are very good for cooking authentic paella.
Calasparra rice is short-grained rice that is grown in the area around the town of Calasparra, near Murcia.
So, if you want to cook an authentic paella, you can do it yourself.
Make sure you have a good quality paella rice with the right absorption characteristics.
When you use the right tools and ingredients, preparing a delicious paella is a feast, and you can prepare a delicious meal!