20 September 2023

Multicultural Eats: Celebrate International Paella Day

| Lucy Ridge
Large dish of paella with peas.

Check out the paella at Saint Malo. Photo: Saint Malo.

Paella is perhaps the best-known dish of Spanish cuisine. It is so well known, in fact, that it warrants its own day of celebration. That day is tomorrow – 20 September – when Spaniards around the world will celebrate International Paella Day and you can join in the fun here in Canberra.

Let’s start with the basics: it’s pronounced pah-yeh-ya. Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish, usually made with a variety of rice called ‘bomba’, which has small, round grains that absorb the flavours of the dish. The yellow colour is due to the use of saffron, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.

But despite this luxe ingredient, paella owes its roots to Valencian farmers who made the dish as an affordable meal, usually adding whatever vegetables and protein were to hand. In fact, it’s still not usual to see paella served with snails in Spain.

John Santos in chef's whites smiles while garnishing large pan of paella

Chef John Santos is a master of paella. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Saint Malo is a Spanish restaurant, bar and function space in Civic that opened in August 2022. Their Mediterranean-chic menu features a range of Spanish dishes with seafood, grilled meats to share and delicious tapas-style appetisers.

For International Paella Day, the team at Saint Malo are teaming up with the Spanish Embassy and the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish language and culture centre based in Sydney. They are also joining forces with Eat Spanish for a massive paella showcase.

“This is the first time we’re all collaborating here at Saint Malo for paella day,” events manager Asad Panezai told Region.

“We want to bring the community together, all the Spanish and Latin communities, as well as anybody else who wants to come and experience something different together.”

Interior of Saint Malo restaurant

Saint Malo feels like going on a holiday. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The event promises to be a real fiesta with free-flowing red and white sangria and Spanish wine tastings from the Tablao Group, who will bring a range of specialty imported wines to the event.

Saint Malo Chef John Santos explained that there will be four different varieties of paella available on the night:

“We’ll be making Paella Valenciana, which is cooked with rabbit and chicken; Paella de Mariscos, which is seafood; and also our black rice dish, which is made with squid ink. These dishes are all from different parts of Spain.”

There will also be a Paella Verduras, a vegetable-loaded vegetarian version.

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The chefs will be explaining the different varieties of this iconic dish and divulging the secrets of how to achieve the perfect socarrat – the desirable crust that forms on the bottom of a well-cooked paella.

The Spanish Club in Narrabundah hosts a paella lunch and market day on the first Sunday of every month.

Club President Chris Lander explained that there are a multitude of ways to prepare paella.

“The recipe I learnt came from two matriarchs at the Spanish club, but every chef has their own personal touch for each dish. There are so many different types: there’s even a curry paella! It’s very diverse,” he told Region.

“People usually expect seafood, but my mother-in-law mostly had rabbit with her paella when she was growing up in Spain. That’s actually more traditional.”

Buffet of colourful side dishes

The feast at Saint Malo will include tapas, cheeses and cured meats. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The Spanish club is working on new kitchen facilities at the moment so they can serve food more regularly, including other Spanish classics like tapas and churros. In the long term, they’re hoping to host Spanish food festivals, perhaps even for International Paella Day next year!

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Tickets to the Saint Malo Paella Day feast have already sold out, but you can enjoy paella on their regular menu. Saint Malo is located at 23 London Circuit, Canberra. They are open from 12 pm to 10 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
Visit their website or follow Saint Malo on Facebook or Instagram.

The Spanish Club is located at 5 Narupai Pl, Narrabundah. They host a market and paella lunch on the first Sunday of the month. Follow the Spanish Club on Facebook.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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