About the rice
As you have most probably heard, Paella is one of the world’s famous rice dishes. Originally coming from Valencia (Spain) in the XX century, it has become known and appreciated in many other different cultures.
The dish is taking its name after the container where it’s cooked.
In catalan language, Paella is a round metal cooking vessel (with varying diameters, based on the people you want to serve) with low edges, normally less than 5cm height. This is designed that way to ensure the proper water evaporation ratio and being uniform during the cooking process.
What makes paella interesting and unique is the process of getting the rice properly cooked, having as an objective to get final rice grains that are “loose” or “not sticky” to each other.
To achieve this texture, the selection of rice is crucial, since not all kinds of rice grains are able to “behave” the same way during the cooking process, and not all of them are able to “capture” the flavor contained in the broth while cooking.
There are thousands of rice varieties grown in the world, although we can group them in four main categories:
- Long grain rice. Much more long than wide (usually more than 6mm). The most common in this group is Basmati, mainly used in India. “It’s considered the best quality rice, along with Patna, which (unlike Basmati) is an aromatic rice.
Another variety is Jasmin that is more “sticky” and come from Thailand.
The most common European version is the Italian Ferrini. The varieties Bond and
Tebonnet have their origin in the US.
From a culinary point of view, the long-grain rices have a “spongy” texture and
are usually less sticky than other types.
- Middle grain rice. These are all those varieties with a grain length less than 5mm. The most representative one is the Arborio, used mainly with the risottos.
Other varieties, like the Sweet American, are used in the food industry as thickeners.
They are very sticky rice types, with high starch content and that lose their shape very easily when cooking.
For cooking, these kinds of rices absorb more water and are usually stickier
than the previous ones.
- Short grain rice. Most common and appreciated varieties are Jucar and Bahia, coming from Spain. Veneria, from Italy and Bomba, very convenient for Paella cooking.
Since the rice cooking process in the Paella involves the rice being cooked in the broth (containing all the flavors from the rest of the ingredients), the best appreciated varieties are those more capable of absorbing all these flavors on their outer layers and, at the same time, keeping themselves consistent (not losing the grain shapes) during all the cooking process.
The short grain varieties are the most convenient and the only ones that behave this way, keeping all the taste and “al dente” texture at the end of the cooking time (18-20 minutes).
To ensure great results when cooking a Paella, use ONLY short grain varieties.
The most recommended ones are Bomba (#1 recommended), then Bahia, Senia, Calasparra.