Stunning seafood paella with crustaceans, shellfish and chicken. A traditional Spanish dish that made its way to Pakistan/India. It's centuries old method of cooking meat and rice; traditionally rice is added to any type of braised meat and cooked to perfection. Spanish cuisine as opposed to other national cuisines in Europe is heavily influenced by culture, society and their cooking methods. These particularities are still present in the various regions. Just like South East Asian countries, Spanish cuisine derives from complex flavors and modified traditions.
It's my first attempt at seafood paella, and it worked out great with some modifications. I used my mom’s traditional pilaf recipe for a base and married it together with seafood. I used basmati rice; that’s what traditionally used in pilafs all over Pakistan/ India and Middle East. You can use any kind of seafood combination; it’s sure to please a crowd. Today, adding vegetables to pilaf paella has become common as well; I’ve seen people adding beans, rice and all sorts of vegetables to it. Karachites call it “tahari” paella. Chicken and goat is the most popular choice in Punjab region. In fact, my mom made "chicken pilaf" every weekend especially for guests, and it was a must have on the dinner table. My mom never used saffron threads; it’s my Spanish interpretation. It’s commonly used in biryanis and other sweets, but not pilaf.
All types of paellas use some meat, rice, and seasonings. Other variants would be biryani, jambalaya, pilaf, and risotto.
Our local Safeway has cooked seafood available at the seafood counter, which I used, so the prep time was minimal. I added all the cooked seafood including lobster, crab legs, cooked crab meat, except for the shrimps, mussels, and oysters, which I just steamed before adding to the pot. You can find the recipe for how to prep mussels and clams here. It turned out well, and it presented beautifully!I
Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: 30 min
Total cooking time: 30 minutes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 green chilies chopped
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp. red chili powder
A good pinch of saffron threads
3 cups long or medium-grain rice
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. whole garam masala
1-½ tsp. whole cumin seeds
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb. chicken legs and thighs
12 jumbo shrimps
16 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
12 clams washed
1 lb. crab legs cooked
½ lb. crabmeat cooked
Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Marinate shrimps with salt, black pepper and paprika. Set aside. In a deep pot fry the onions until golden, stirring often. Stir in the ginger/garlic paste. Add chicken and spices and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add the tomatoes and green chilies. Add the salt to taste, and saffron, stir well, and cook until the tomatoes are reduced. Add the stock and let it boil. When it comes to rolling boil add the rice. Stir well and spread the rice out evenly in the pan. Cook the rice over low heat for 18 to 20 minutes, moving the pan and keep it covered so that the rice cooks evenly.
Sauté shrimps in a nonstick skillet for 3 minutes until they turn pink. Set aside. Steam the mussels and oysters with salt, pepper and paprika. Add to a pan with a tight-fitting lid. As soon as they open, they are cooked. Throw away any that have not opened.
When the rice is done, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a large piece of foil. Dish out the rice in the paella pan or a large oblong platter.
Arrange all the cooked seafood on top of the paella and voilà!! Enjoy.