What’s rice in La Valenciana?

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Arroz a la Valenciana is a rice dish similar to Spanish paella, made with bomba rice, white wine, chorizo, chicken, onion, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. Variations exist worldwide, including the Filipino version with sliced pork and atchuete oil, and the Louisiana Creole jambalaya.

Arroz a la Valenciana, or Valencian rice, is a kissable cousin of Spanish paella. Paella, which also comes from Valencia, has been delighting diners since the 1850s. In essence, Arroz a la Valenciana is a type of paella that has grown its feet and traveled the world. Versions abound in Portugal in Europe, south to Chile, Central and South America, and the Asian Philippines.

As the name suggests, the base of the dish is rice, sticky or long-grained, which is cooked in white wine and sometimes beer as well. This dish includes chorizo ​​sausage and chicken or chicken, which is why it is sometimes called arroz con pollo. Most cooks include onion, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. Duck or rabbit can substitute for or accompany chicken, and many cooks see this dish as an option to consume green vegetables, such as cooked, dried peas and beans.

In addition to Valencian paella, another type of Spanish paella is paella de marisco, which features clams, lobster and other seafood in place of poultry and ditches vegetables. Paella mixta, yet another variant, warns against the wind and combines chicken, sausage and seafood along with green vegetables and, if it suits the cook’s fancy, some cooked, dried beans.

In the wonderful world of rice dishes, two things make Arroz a la Valenciana stand out. First, while other types of rice may be used, traditionalists insist on using bomba rice. Bomba is short-grain rice that expands horizontally rather than vertically; it is able to absorb up to 30% of its volume and each grain remains separate from the others, unlike sticky rice. Second, a few strands of saffron take the dish up the scale from very good indeed to beyond exquisite.

Filipino cooks put a little twist on the dish without altering its basic personality. Instead of sausage, their version, which is called Arroz Valenciana, includes sliced ​​pork. Atchuete oil and patis rather than saffron lend a distinctive flavor to the meal, and the addition of chicken organ meat and even sliced ​​hot dogs give this version a solid foundation. The Filipino style Arroz Valenciana is always served with malagkit, or sticky rice, rather than bomba.

Though Louisiana Creole citizens insist their dish is called jambalaya, there are enough similarities between this wonderfully spicy rice casserole and arroz a la Valenciana to suggest more than a passing acquaintance. Both are cooked in a series of steps; first, meat and vegetables are cooked together in wine, beer or water. The rice is cooked with some of the meat and juices added. Next, the rice is fried with buttery onions and, as a last step, sausage and other ingredients are added. Seafood is also often featured in jambalaya.

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