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Acceptable rice varieties for paella?

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  • renz Mar 13, 2008 07:44 PM
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So getting the so-called "paella" rice is not an option for me, with time constraints/transport, etc.

When I went to the fancy food store, I bought carnaroli rice, remembering that one of my books recommended a risotto rice that isn't arborio for paella. Unfortunately, after I get home and check, I realize that the specified variety is vialone nano, not carnaroli.

I don't think I can get vialone nano at my local store, but I know I could get arborio or Goya medium grain, IF my carnaroli won't work.

If anyone with experience can give any pointers, I'd really appreciate it. I'm not trying to stick too slavishly to some notion of "authentic," but I do want to get a nice texture, etc.

Should I make another trip for arborio or the Goya? Will carnaroli be devastatingly inappropriate (we have had some paellas but it's been a while and we are not connoisseurs).

Thanks

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  1. http://www.tienda.com/

    This is a good source if you want to order on line.

    In truth, I think you have a lot of leeway. I would stick to the longer grain variety and stay away from the creamier types used for risotto, just because all of the paella I've eaten in Spanish restaurants tends to be on the fluffy side. I've even used Basmati in a pinch -- not the best choice, but it worked.

    1. I have never used carnaroli rice but if it is a medium grained rice - I would say go for it. People will tell you that 'bomba' is the most 'authentic' rice for paella but I don't use it or buy it.

      I like my results with medium grained japanese akita prefecture rice, calrose and arborio. The secret is to dont be afraid to really toast the rice - to achieve a certain smokiness and impart soul into the dish.

      Good luck! Paella is one of my favorite dishes of all time!

      1 Reply
      1. re: kare_raisu

        I think Valencia rice or calaspara rice are the two standard ones and I never fidn them in supermarkets, but have ordered them on Amazon.com or Have bought them in a spanish import store in NYC called Despana.

      2. Thanks all. Ordering online isn't an option for me because I'm making the paella today, but with everyone's tips and some further research online, I think I'm just going to use the carnaroli. Like kare ruisu says, the standard advice is to go for a medium grain (and to avoid long-grain because you want some chewiness and not fluffiness, which corroborates what I remember from Spanish restaurants).

        I had read about carnaroli being especially creamy for risotto, which is why I hesitated about using it for paella.

        1 Reply
        1. re: renz

          Since you were making it that night, I am writing this too late. I love experimenting with paellas, though so far I have been able to find and use rices from Calasparra. For future paellas- do you have any Cost Plus World Markets near you? I have purchased rice from there before.

          I have also read that rice that works for risotto is fine for paellas. My guess would be that the carnaroli would have worked (did it?). A key difference is that for risotto you are stirring throughout and for paella once you add the liquid, you don't stir. I would assume that the carnaroli wouldn't be as creamy if not stirred in the way that you do for risotto. How did it turn out?

        2. Valencia is really the only one that going to get you even close to an authentic taste and texture.

          So, if you use arborio or long grain rice, you are going to end up with "Spanish risotto" or "Spanish pilaff". Both nice in their own ways.

          Valencian is always in stock at my local supermarket but if they were out, I would use arborio - but watch the cooking - you don't want this as gloopy as risotto. Most important is to make sure you use good saffron to flavour it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            I would have to politely disagree that only Valencia rice will get "even close" to an authentic taste and texture. I have eaten paella in Spanish restaurants, in various countries including Spain, and while my recipe wasn't perfect, the taste and texture of the rice turned out to be absolutely fine.

            By no definition would I call it a pilaf or risotto, since the technique is quite different from either: the rice is not toasted in oil*, nor is it long-grain, nor is it fluffy, as with a pilaf; neither is the rice cooked and stirred in the same way for a risotto or risotto-like result.

            I think one can do fine with a similar medium-grain rice if you use the same paella technique. None of the sources I consulted were emphatic about using only Valencian rice (though they emphasized other aspects).

            I'll readily concede lack on inauthenticity on many other grounds (no paella pan, for starters, and cooked in the oven rather than over a fire).

            * I was surprised that most of the Spanish sources did not call for toasting the rice; I had expected this to be an important step as it is with pilaf or risotto. However, I found most recipes called to simply stir the rice to coat with oil and then immediately add the liquids. I don't know, in the end, what difference this makes, nor how important it is. But it was unexpected.

            Thanks everyone for the tips, and for future reference, carnaroli rice is fine. I'll have an eye out next time I'm at World Market, though.

          2. Use any long grained Indica rice--as opposed to shorter grained, low amylose Japonica rices used for sushi and risotto.

            1. Medium grain according to the better chefs I've read. It goes nutty, and not as soggy as arborio would. Remember, paella is NOT risotto, the rice texture is really important - it needs to almost burn on the bottom too, so as Rick Stein says, 'no stirring'!

              1. Hi
                The 3 most important things are, in order -

                The rice. never use long grain, basmati, thai. Arborio is OK. I´ve never heard of the rice you mentioned. My preference is for Valencia or my favourite Calasparra. An alternative Spanish rice is Bomba, Spanish for ¨Bomb¨ because it absorbs a lot of liquid. That is the idea, long grain varieties are a side dish, Spanish and risotto rices are part of the dish and cooked with the other ingredients.

                As regards when the rice is added, even professionals vary. Some add the rice early and stir and cover it in the olive oil, not brown it, other add it into the boiling stock in the pan.

                You can just water for the liquid but by far the best thing is to use concentrated, boiled down, home made stock. Chicken carcasses, pork ribs, vegetables, fish heads, shell fish leftovers, etc.

                The pan should be shallow and large so that the ingredients cook evenly, no stirring once everything is cooking. Traditionally the meal is cooked over a wood fire.

                I haven´t mentioned the ingredients because they are so flexible. A centuries old version had rice, duck and snails in it, food you could locally buy or catch.

                I hope this long winded message will help.

                Buen approvecho from Murcia Spain.

                Bart Ruiz

                1 Reply
                1. re: bartruiz

                  Cooking evenly is the trickiest part. A large shallow pan may help minimize the difference between rice at bottom v. the top, since the rice layer is thin. But if the heat source does not match the pan, then the center gets cooked sooner than the rim. That's why I've practically given up on preparing a paella like dish in a 12" (30cm) or larger pan.