|Paella in Action|
Paella de Mariscos is a wonderful dish. A sufrito (gloop) of onion, red pepper and tomato cooked slowly until it is the sticky consistency of jam. Then combined with plump grains of succulent rice. And finally mixed with whatever seafood is freshest bought that morning from La Boqueria. And all in really, really big black pan. What’s not to like? What could go possibly go wrong?
You see the whole issue of eating paella is fraught with difficulties because, as it is Spain’s national dish (though not actually Catalonia’s), everyone is going to want to try it while they are here. And because everyone is going to want to try it, it is a staple on the majority of restaurants' menus. But, and here’s the rub, having paella on their menu does not necessarily mean the restaurant is committed to doing it properly. Because proper paella takes time and care and a decent chef whereas a defrosted pre-prepared one just needs a teenager with a nasty rash and a quick spin in the microwave. It’s not hard to see where the greater profit margin might lie.
|Paella 2 : La Boqueria - where you want your paella to have been this morning.|
So what can you the poor innocent traveller do to outwit those evil microwave whizzers who’ve never so much as been to La Boqueria and think fresh means that it was in the supermarket freezer section this morning.
|Paella 3 : Where you don't want it to have been|
There are three golden rules:
1) Do not eat paella on Las Ramblas. I understand this is already covered by my Las Ramblas post where I say do not eat anything on Las Ramblas but it bears repetition. Eating paella on Las Ramblas is even worse than eating anything else there because, let’s face it, you can only mess up chips so much. Whereas you can really screw up a paella.
2) Do not eat paella at any restaurant where they serve single portions. The smallest properly cooked paella serves two. If they offer it for one it means a quick step for rash boy to freezerville.
3) Ask how long the paella will take. If you fancy being devious even give the impression that you are in a hurry. Do not eat any paella which the waiter tells you will be ready in less than twenty minutes (and this probably means thirty). A paella that appears in five minutes has been going round in circles and will be noticeably cooler in the middle. If the waiter says a paella will be ready in five minutes, don’t order something else – leave the restaurant. Shake your head ostentatiously as you go.
Though this is not strictly necessary, if you want to eat paella I would recommend heading to Barceloneta (Twenty five minutes walk from Plaza Catalunya or Metro, yellow line, stop Barceloneta). It is Barcelona’s old fishing village area and by the sea which seems most appropriate for a paella de mariscos – obviously there are many other types of paella but that’s the one I’d go for. Further, I would advise not eating in any restaurant which has someone outside soliciting your custom however charming their smile. One very good suggestion from my own experience is Can Manel, (60 Passeig de Joan Borbó, 08003, Barcelona) which does an impressive paella (and other dishes of which more anon) and where the waiters are reassuringly grumpy.
Now all that’s left for you to do is eat it.
Useful Spanish words/phrases:
Para mi, la paella de mariscos – For me, the seafood paella.
Qué es (say the name of ingredient on the menu) – What is…
Sepia – Cuttlefish
Calamares – Squid
Langustinas – Prawns
Mejillones – Mussels
Arroz – Rice
La cuenta, por favour – The bill, please.
If you fancy chatting:
¿Es posible pedir la paella para solo una persona? ¡Aha! – Is it possible to order the paella for only one person? Aha! ( only if they say yes)
Tenemos prisa. ¿Cuántos minutos hasta que la paella este lista? ¡Aha! – We’re in a hurry. How long until the paella is ready? Aha! (ony if they say less than fifteen minutes)
Pienso que deberías ir al medico con ese sarpullido – You should go a doctor with that rash.