As a frequent traveler, I know that most often or not, the best food is usually found in the most unpredictable places. Spain is the land of paella, where one can find many different varieties. Although paella is one of the most popular dishes in Spain, every family cooks their paella slightly differently to another. For instance, one may use water and another uses broth. While in Spain, I have already eaten quiet a few paellas. Even though each one might look similar, they don’t taste exactly the same. As my love for paella grows stronger each time I taste them, it gave me the idea to search for the best paella in Spain.
A friend of mine heard about my project, my search for the best paella, and she recommended I try the Arròs a banda (Arroz a banda )in a small cafe/convenience store located on an urbanization call Monte Horquera. I was introduced to Angela, the owner and chef of Minisuper Horquera. She took us to the back of the cafe where we discovered her small outdoor cooking area, where she cooks all her paellas. “It usually takes approximately 25 minutes to cook each paella and all paellas are cooked to order,” she said. I watched her cook as she explained each of the steps to me. The method that she used was a traditional Valencian paella recipe but, as you come to appreciate with paella, a small twist of her own.
She cooked us Arròs a banda (squid and prawn paella with seafood broth). First she added olive oil to the paella dish and heated it up until smokey. Then she browned some garlic cloves before adding the squids and prawns to the paella dish. She stirred for a couple of minutes before adding some garlic and herb oil and pepper and chorizo paste. Stirred for a further 2 to 3 minutes before adding the rice. Then she stirred for another 2 to 3 minutes before adding the seafood broth, Turning down the heat and simmering for 15 to 20 minutes until the broth was reduced and the rice thoroughly cooked. The smell was heavenly. We sat at our table whilst waiting for the paella to finish cooking, so we had a couple of starters to begin with.
Firstly Patatas bravas: Deep fried potato cubes drizzled with garlic, herb and lemon dressing served with a couple teaspoons of Ali Oli. The potato was delicious. They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It also goes really well with the garlic, herb and lemon dressing. Dipping in Ali Oli just adds that extra creaminess.
Second starter was Oreja, grilled pig’s ear. For those a bit squeamish, this may not be the dish for you. The pig’s ears are cut into small pieces, grilled to crispy and served with a garlic dressing. To be honest, I couldn’t tell it’s pig’s ear at all after it’s cooked. They were crunchy with quite a bit of fat on them. Some of them were a little tough and chewy but nevertheless I quite liked them. They make a good starter dish as they do take quite a bit of chewing and you definitely can’t eat too much of them because of the fattiness that greases your tongue.
The paella finally finished cooking and it looked and smelled divine. Before we dug in, I was explained about the general rules of eating paella. If you are going to eat with your own personal plate, you should serve from the middle of the dish. But if you want to eat it the traditional way, which is to spoon directly from the dish, you must start from the side in the section in front of you. Never spoon it from the middle or anywhere else. Of course, to fully enjoy this Spanish dish, I had to eat it the traditional way.
The paella was delicious and full of flavor. The rice was perfectly cooked and moist. It had absorbed all of the seafood broth and the juices from the squids and the shrimps. The squid were tender and the shrimps still juicy. I couldn’t help myself but had more than a couple of servings. The best part of the paella is at the end, when you scrape off the crunchy rice that’s stuck to the dish. It’s are tasty, crunchy and full of flavor. By the time we finished the paella, we were so full but we had to try dessert. So we ordered two – to share between us.
The first dessert was a mixed fruit mousse called Panna cotta. It was nice and fluffy with a sharp sour taste when it enters the mouth, then it turned sweet as it melted.
The second dessert looked like raspberry cheese cake called Tarta de queso. A specialty dessert that Angela makes. The special ingredient was kept secret from us. The texture and the taste was similar to cheese cake, except it had a much stronger cheese favor, almost like blue cheese. The combined flavor of the raspberry sauce and the crunchy biscuit base worked very well together. Although personally, my favorite was the Panna cotta.
We finished our lunch with a shot of home-made limoncello. This is definitely not for the lighthearted as it was allegedly made using 90% alcohol. Of course, the drink was diluted but it was still thought to be around 40-50% alcohol. It was definitely very strong as I could feel it burn all the way down from my throat to my stomach.
Overall, I loved all of the food. They were all fresh, delicious and full of flavor. If you are near the area, I would highly recommend you drive the extra kilometers to drop by the Minisuper Horquera.