This Is The Local + Easy Version Of The Spanish Paella That You Should Try

This easy paella version uses ingredients you can get at any supermarket or palengke.

IMAGE Miguel Nacianceno

Paella is a common enough dish in the Philippines that when it comes to celebrations and fiestas, so we are not surprised to see it on the buffet table. However, the ingredients that you need for traditional paella—the rice variety, the various seafood, the all-important saffron, and even the seasonings—can be difficult to find or even to afford. (Saffron is the one of the most, if not the most, expensive spice in the world.)

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Since we have adopted many foreign dishes as our own, the paella is one of those dishes which we have localized and made easier to make by using ingredients more readily available. It’s called the bringhe.

One of those ingredients which was substituted is the saffron. A rare few can afford the little amount needed for the classic paella but yes, there is a super affordable substitute that not only mimics the color of saffron but also the look of it because it’s also from a flower: kasubha. It’s from the safflower which has yellow petals (versus the saffron flower which is lavender). You might have seen strands of kasubha in your lugaw or arroz caldo where it’s more commonly used. It doesn’t taste the same as the saffron, but it’s the closest ingredient we have to a natural food coloring that is arguably the best substitute for the expensive spice.

Arroz caldo is a simple recipe but it can be the most comforting dish!

For those who can’t find kasubha, there is another natural coloring agent that’s available you can use: turmeric or luyang dilaw. You can use the fresh root, peeled and chopped, or the powdered version to give your paella the yellow tinge it’s known for.

Another substitute you can make to localize the paella is the type of rice used. The rice varieties in Spain are different from those cultivated here on the islands, so if Spain uses a short grain rice for their paella, we have and use the malagkit. Malagkit rice, or glutinous rice, is a medium-grain rice that has similar qualities needed for the rice used in the traditional version. This variety however can result in an overly sticky and mushy paella, but this can be offset by adding another type of rice to the mix that isn’t as sticky. The result is a delicious rice that’s a little stickier but has firm enough grains that its individual grains are still discernable.

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These changes make a dish that is similar to the original paella, but what it’s really about is making a dish we normally can’t make into one that we can with ease. By localizing its ingredients, we changed its taste to conform to what is readily available and affordable, and it's still delicious. Here are bringhe recipes you can easily try: 

This is a simplified stovetop-version of paella that moms can easily prepare at home.

This recipe uses brown rice, which is more nutritious than white polished rice.

This bringhe version is topped with crisp adobo flakes!

This Christmas, make bringhe, or our local paella, a dish we transformed from a Spanish recipe with ingredients that anyone can more easily get a hold of to make it into a dish we can easily serve for our own fiestas and celebrations. 

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