The thousand flavours of rice
Healthy, versatile, with a thousand different flavours. Rice is one of the most widely consumed foods in the world, and is a vital ingredient in Spanish cuisine. It is no coincidence that Spain is Europe’s second largest rice producer. In Spanish restaurants you will find a huge variety of delicious, rice-based dishes. The famous paella is just one of them.
In Spain, your imagination is the only limit when it comes to rice. Spanish cooking offers endless possibilities for this small grain, and the results are usually excellent. Rice is healthy too: it is easy to digest, it has no cholesterol or gluten and, being carbohydrate-rich, is highly nutritive. Whether you have rice as a main dish, a dessert or as an accompaniment, the range of different flavours to be found is so varied that you will never get tired of it. This cereal is an ideal partner for a whole range of other foods: pulses, meat, vegetables, fish, seafood... The secret lies in choosing the right combination, and in the method of preparation, a genuine ritual that must be strictly followed to ensure that the rice takes on all the flavours of the other ingredients to create a unique-tasting dish.
The star of the show: paella
In Spain it is commonplace to go out with family and friends to enjoy “un arroz”, or a plate of rice. It is a meal to share - these dishes are only prepared for a minimum of two people. If you want to order one to eat at a specific time, you should warn the restaurant in advance so that it’s ready to eat when you arrive. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait around 45 minutes. Depending on the recipe, preparation time can vary from 30 minutes to about an hour. And by the way, when it’s served, let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes - then it will be perfect to eat.
Nowadays, you can sample most of the wide range of rice dishes anywhere in Spain, although some specialities are traditionally associated with particular places, especially along the Mediterranean coast. Of these, the most internationally known dish is of course the paella, typical of Valencia, where you’ll find numerous different varieties (vegetable, seafood, mixed…). Other popular recipes are arroz en caldero (creamy rice), served with alioli (a kind of garlic mayonnaise); arroz al horno , cooked in an earthenware casserole in the oven; arroz a banda , where the rice is cooked in a previously prepared fish stock; arroz con costra (with a crust), so-called because of the crust formed by the baked egg yolk on top; arroz negro (black rice), whose unique colour comes from the squid ink used in its preparation.
And rice is not only enjoyed as a main dish. You can also have it as a starter, in sopa de picadillo soup, a classic dish in Andalusia, or as a dessert: the most famous of these is rice pudding, originally from Asturias, where the rice is cooked to form a delicious cream with hints of vanilla, lemon, cinnamon and caramel.
Famous rice dishes
The Arabs introduced this cereal into Spain in the 8th century. There are important rice plantations in certain wetland areas of Spain, which are also interesting tourist destinations, such as the Albufera de Valencia region, the Ebro River Delta, and the marshes of the Guadalquivir River in the area of the Doñana National Park. There are even types of rice with the Designation of Origin label which vouches for the quality and unique characteristics of rice production in certain regions, such as Valencia Rice, grown in the area around the Albufera nature reserve in Valencia, Ebro Delta Rice, from Tarragona, and Calasparra Rice, which is produced in Murcia and Albacete. Be sure to take some of these varieties with you as a souvenir to cook at home. When you try them you’ll really taste the difference.
Spanish gastronomy is famous throughout the world, and rice is one of its most delicious dishes. Let your taste buds tell you why.