Escriba’s Spanish Paella

Posted on June 10, 2011


If you are a foodie like me, you probably have your TV stuck to Food TV network.  Recently, there is a new addition to my list of favorite TV shows, From Spain with Love.  The show is just on its second episode and I am in love!  The episode focuses on the origins of the iconic dish Paella and how it is different from one region to the other.  What makes this episode extra special to me is that I have been to the restaurant that she culminated her Paella tour, Escriba’s El Xiringuito.  Although the show featured another equally mouth-watering dish, Fideuà,  seeing that restaurant gave me that nostalgic feel coupled with a craving to have a taste again of Paella del Peix.

This visit was less than a year ago, on my last day in Barcelona.  My friend, Manel, saving the best for last, brought me to Escriba’s El Xiringuito.  Since this is one of the most popular waterfront restaurants of Barcelona, we came an hour earlier than the regular lunch crowd.  There were just a few people and we have a good choice of a table.  I look around, feeling my adrenalin start to rush as I furtively look at the very tourist-accessible Paella kitchen.  Think of me happily snapping away, papparazzi-style, as the chef cooked our Paella.  It got me thinking, the chef must be so used to tourist gawking at what he is doing.  I came to that conclusion as he did not even discourage my trigger happy finger.  You could say that my collection of images during this meal looks like I have some time-lapse equipment in my tiny camera bag.

So I watched him threw in prawns, vegetable base and rice into the hot paellera then I clicked away.  He lets the rice toast in the hot paellera, occasionally stirring the mix.  A few minutes after, I am guessing he added the freshly made fish stock.  I can only guess as I aptly abandoned hovering around the chef with the arrival of the Escriba’s Calamarsons a l’Andalusa (Andalusian styled baby squid ) on our table. After eating several versions of calamari on countless tapas bars in San Sebastián, Bilbao and Barcelona, I think this is my most favorite of them all.  The batter was aptly crunchy and yet still felt light. The tiny calamari was cooked to tender perfection.  I can probably still eat a whole plate of it if I were not mindful that the Paella demands more space in my tummy ;)

And so our Paella arrived on the table and I look at it, teeny tiny regretful that I had too much of the baby squid.  The paellera intended for two was big.  I have my work cut out for me.  What I love best about this Paella is that even though the dish was cooked using fish stock, it never leaves a fishy aftertaste.  It has this good balance of deep concentrated flavour of fresh seafood and saffron, you just cannot help of having spoonful after spoonful of it.  I am in awe about how tender and perfectly cooked each morsel I chew on.

Even though Manel and I were contentedly exhausted trying to finish the Paella,  we still ordered dessert.  As one of the oldest bakeries in Barcelona, one must not ignore the chance of sampling Escriba’s desserts.  We chose to split a chocolate tart with a brittle prettily sitting on top.  The dessert arrives and I find I can squeeze enough space for it.  We came out of the restaurant with happy tummies.  I take a quick look back and realize that the restaurant was full.  I smile thinking, “as it should be!”.