Ah Spain! What a glorious country to behold. As I stepped into the city to admire the richness of my surroundings, one thing and only one thing preoccupied my mind—food. As always, my quest for Paella was on the top of my list.
My notion of paella has been this one pot dish of seafood goodness. I remember my mom would stir it constantly and kept adding mussel stock as I looked on waiting for it to be done. Those memories were soon replaced by that first wow moment I had in Madrid.
I first tasted Authentic Paella in Barcelona, in a restaurant, where ironically, Filipinos are the chefs. It was hmm… so-so, quite bland and love-less, if there is such a thing. I knew somewhere in those obscure streets, there was a better version waiting for me. I studied, took classes with a veteran Spanish Chef, tried the Catalan version and I was hooked on the whole process of it. This included trips to the local market or la boqueria, finding the right ingredients and experimenting on making it casino on my own.
I never thought I would be impressed again after tasting the Catalan Paella. I truly believed that it was THAT good until I went on a short stop over in Madrid.
While everyone else shopped, I walked through a row of restaurants, with a few friends of mine who were also looking forward to eating Paella. After all, we were only there for a short period of time. We were told lunch hour wasn’t till 11:30 am so we had to wait. Some couldn’t wait any longer and ordered overpriced pizza. I, on the other hand, sat and waited.
The restaurant opened and a friend joined me. This friend was the only other person who was, like me, wanting to eat one thing. By golly, it was well worth the wait! That one order of Paella Marisco changed my whole perspective of what paella truly was. The rice was perfectly cooked. The grains tasted like the sea, the flavors were rich, buttery but not overpowering. The prawns, squid and lobsters were sweet and fresh. It was close to decadent!
The best part was that it had no frills. It had a no nonsense presentation. It was simply a straightforward dish with hardly any garnish. This one easily became my benchmark for a truly good paella.
Clearly, in this case, the simplest things are just the best.
Chin Gallegos, Owner of Pio’s Paella, learned to make Paella since she was 13. She loved it so much so while travelling around Europe, she studied in Barcelona, Spain and fell in love with the Catalan version of Paella. She now owns her own catering business that specializes in on the spot cooking of Paella.
For events and online booking, please check out her website at www.piospaella.com