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Sofia-inspired Paella

Seafood Paella

The other day I asked Brad if there was anything specifically he wanted to eat. Sometimes I run out of ideas, asking my regular patron what he wants to eat stirs up my creativity. His answer was something seafood. I thought about a seafood menu for a while. Then ding! the light bulb turned on. Paella. Since I made this dish with my friend Sofia, I haven't tried to make it myself.

Sofia and I met at Culinary school. Toward the end of our last level, I had a thought of creating a Youtube channel about food, people and culture. The idea was to interview people about their food memories and experiences. When I shared the idea with Sofia and invited her to be my guest on the first episode, she agreed without hesitation. We shot the video after the class one day.

Sofia in her home kitchen

Happy Sofia in her home kitchen

When Brad and I arrived at Sofia's home, everything has been prepared deliberately. Sofia would not only share her memories about her family's dish, Paella, she also was willing to show us how to cook it. She told me that Paella is actually the name of the pan which is used for cooking this rice dish from Spain. It's a unique round and shallow depth pan. She also said originally Paella is from Valencia, and chicken is the only protein that they used for the dish.


Some of Paella ingredients

In the photo above you will see the ingredients Sofia used for her Paella. A good quality Saffron is a must. It provides a distinct color for the dish. For the rice, Sofia recommended that it has to be a specific type of short grain rice called Bomba. I asked her why she chose this dish for the video. She said it reminded her of her family. In the summertime, Sofia's family members will get together at her mother's home. Her mother would always cook Paella. A large paella pan is set over a charcoal stove. People will be talking, drinking and waiting impatiently while the summer's gentle breeze carries the smell of mixed spices from the simmering rice. Paella is meant to be prepared in a generous batch. Traditional pan sizes range from 17 to 40 inches depending on the number of guests.

Sofia's mom

Sofia's mother (Photo credit - Sofia Gambara)

For me, at first I planned to use just a skillet, but then I changed my mind. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to prepare it the right way. After I came back from getting the pan and ingredients, I realized that I forgot to buy the Bomba rice, but I was too excited to get started, so I substituted it with Jasmine rice that I have in my pantry.

I adjusted the amount of broth. Jasmine rice doesn't have the same characteristics as bomba rice which is very absorbent. The Bomba rice to cooking liquid ratio is 1:3 meanwhile the Jasmine rice is 1:1.5. I'm very satisfied with the results. Another important tip is do not leave the stove; get everything ready. Once you start to cook you need to stir it constantly. After I finished cooking and plating I had a big smile thinking about that day with Sofia.

Me and Sofia with her homemade Paella

Every dish has it own story. Even it's the same dish, the story or memory of each individual will be different. For Sofia, Paella brings her back to the happiness of being surrounded by family members and her mother's recipe. For me, Paella reminds me of Sofia, and an honor to learn about her memories of her family. What about you? What are some of your food memories? Please share them with me.


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