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The Best Spanish Rice for Paella is Balila or Bomba rice. These rices are designed to take in the maximum amount of broth while still retaining its firm texture. Italian Rice like Arborio or Caranoli rice are designed to melt and become creamy. They blend together becoming a soup like mixture. This is completly different from how Paella should be. Each grain of rice should be distinct from each other while retaining its al dente texture.
Spanish Rice History
Spanish rice came into spain around the 18th century. In the past, rice were rarely grown due to fears of malaria. By consuming such rice, you might condemn consumers to certain death.
To get around this, a series of canals and irrigation was developed to bring in fresh water. The Valencia area of spain, has many of those same irrigation still running today. It known as the origin and birth place of Paella rice. For those who are truly dedicated to the rice, it is considered the best place to get Paella Rice.
Qualities of the Best Paella Rice
Paella rice can be judge by three factors, taste, texture and liquid absorption. Rice itself has a taste, although bland, they can vary from one to another.
The second factor is its ability to stay firm. As stated before, a good paella rice is its ability to separate from each other. If you have a rice that absorbs liquid then turn to mush, its a bad paella rice.
Finally, is its ability to absorb broth. A good paella rice should absorb at least twice its volume. The more liquid it can absorb the more flavorful the rice is.
Best Paella Rice Varieties
Most if not all Spansih rice are considered short grain rice. They absorb the most liquid out of all type of rice. In Spain, 90 percent of rice produced are short grain rice. While there are quite a few different type of rice, the most common are Bomba and Balilla rice.
Ballila rice will generally absorb two times the liquid of its size. Most rice labeled from Valencia or from Spain will most likely be Balilla. The best Balila rice will be from the region of Calasparra. However, they also command some of the highest price around.
Bomba Rice is considered to be the best paella rice. It can absorb up to three times its volume of liquid. The firmness and texture is also better than Ballila. However, its also quite a bit more difficult to grow than Ballila Rice. As such, most manufacturer will opt out of calling their rice either ballila or bomba. They will just list their rice as Spanish Rice. When looking for Bomba Rice, make sure that they actually label their rice Bomba Rice. Although some reputable brand like Arroz De Calasparra might omit it.
Best Pan for Paella
Paella Pans are big in diameter and short in stature. The reason it is designed this way is to promote evaporation and prevent the rice from being mushy. By spreading the rice across a wide area, you get one small layers of rice. If your pan is too tall, the rice will start steaming and become mushy. That is exactly the opposite of what you want.
Since most home burner cannot accomodate and heat up large paella pans, its best to get a pan that has a nice heavy bottom. With a heavy bottom, you can heat it up slowly and eventually get it hot evenly across the pan. This will ensure that each grain of rice will be cooked uniformly.
Depending on the size of your family and guest, you will have to select the appropriate size. 12 inch pan can serve 2-3 guest, 13 inch will serve 4-6 and 16 inch will serve 6-8 guest.
In my experience, the best pan to get is the one by Matfer Bourgeat. They uses a heavy carbons steel construction. This will let the pan get hot and stay hot. Other paella pans are thin and cannot hold the heat as well. It also develops a nonstick coating with use, perfect for developing and crust and releasing after its done cooking.
Best Spanish Rice for Paella Thoughts
While most people will try and use Italian rice for Paella, its actually quite different. You want Authentic Spansih Paella rice for paella. The best paella rice is Bomba Rice. It has the correct texture, flavor and liquid absorption. It wont get mushy like Chinese Rice or Italian rice. Dont believe me? Ask any Spaniard Chef and they will tell you only authentic Spanish rice will do.