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Paella: A tale of two cities


Call it a co-incidence, if you will, but the same day I was at Westin Kolkata to attend the Spanish Food Fiesta, my co-blogger at MoneyFoodTravel, was in Spain on an office trip.

He had the time of his life a few days ago, seeing his (and mine) favourite footballer Messi score a hat-trick, including a stunning free-kick at Camp Nou. On September 23, just after I had posted a picture of paella on our Facebook page, he called me up and said he have had paella that very day on a trip to Monstserrat.

Two cites. Kolkata. Barcelona. Two close friends. United by paella. How cool is that?

A bit about paella:  By definition, paella is a Spanish rice dish cooked with saffron (see the link with Biriyani?) and chicken, meat or seafood. However, this is where the similarity ends. It is Spain’s most famous dish. Considered a Valencian dish, it is believed to have its origin in Spain’s East coast in the 19th century.

Paella rice:  Paella rice is a specially bred short grain rice from Valencia. It is kown for its ability to absorb water, almost one and a half times that of the regular rice variety ( according to mercurynews.com) . So unlike Biriyani, paella is not cooked with long grain basmati rice which does not absorb water and does not have the right texture.

The pan: The pan used to cook paella is called the paellera. It is a large shallow frying pan with two handles and made of polished steel. It allows the liquid to quickly evaporate.

Saffron: Paella gets the beautiful and lively colour because of saffron. One of the methods to cook paella is to infuse the saffron in a small amount of water before adding it to the paella.

At Westin, Kolkata, India : I really loved the Suquet Fish, but the pick of the evening was the paella. There was vegetarian paella, a sea-food paella with clams and a meat paella with roasted pork belly. Marcos Sierra, Catering Chef of Hotel Arts Barcelona and the one curating the menu, has flown in all the way to provide Kolkata food lovers an authentic taste of the Spanish cuisine.

Trust me; he will make your evening special. He is one who will win you over with both his smile and his food. He will talk to you about Spanish dishes, how they are prepared and why they are special with the enthusiasm of a child. When I had gone for a second helping of the pork paella, he asked me to wait and added some roasted pork belly to the rice. One of the most important ingredients of food is love, and it does make all the difference.

At Restaurante Abat Cisneros , Monstserrat, Spain: Around the same time, at Montserrat, 45 kms from Barcelona, my co-blogger was having paella at Restaurante Abat Cisneros, a place carved out of bare rocks. He also tasted Paella at Courtyard By Marriot Madrid Princesa, where the rice was kept separately and you can add vegatables, chicken, pork or seafood as per your taste.  Apart from the Messi heroics, he says paella was the best thing about Spain.

What is this thing about Bengalis and their love for rice?

In case you are not planning a trip to Spain soon, head to Westin for some authentic taste of Spain even as you listen to Spanish music playing in the background.


Una Fiesta, Spanish Food Festival at Seasonal Tastes, The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat

Till September 30, 7.30pm – 11pm.

What it costs: Rs 1,399 plus applicable taxes + Unlimited Wine Sangria @599 

Reservations: +91-33-40371234


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