It’s Paella Week in the UAE!

Cel­e­brate Span­ish cul­ture at BOCA and a va­ri­ety of lo­ca­tions across the coun­try

Khaleej Times - City Times - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID LIGHT david@khalee­j­

WE NEVER RE­QUIRE much of an ex­cuse for a fi­esta, but when word came through In­ter­na­tional Paella Day on Septem­ber 20 was be­ing marked with a whole week of UAE cel­e­bra­tions ded­i­cated to this mag­nif­i­cent tra­di­tional Ibe­rian dish, no sooner did we have our Fla­menco shoes on, they were tap­ping away en route to the fes­ti­val’s epi­cen­tre: BOCA in DIFC. Kick­ing-off this year’s car­ni­val of flavour, the Span­ish Tourism Of­fice based in Abu Dhabi put on an in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony where Spain’s Am­bas­sador to the UAE, An­to­nio Ál­varez Barthe, talked about paella’s promi­nence in his na­tion’s culi­nary land­scape be­fore the fine Mediter­ranean restau­rant’s head cook, ac­com­pa­nied by chefs from other Paella Week par­tic­i­pat­ing out­lets, demon­strated their ex­per­tise in cre­at­ing a typ­i­cal Va­len­cian va­ri­ety com­plete with free-range rab­bit and chicken.

Venues tak­ing part un­til Septem­ber 26 in­clude Bebe­mos, Casa de Tapas, Di­ablito in the cap­i­tal and Seville’s though at BOCA you can choose from one of seven paella vari­a­tions such as fresh seafood, ve­gan with mixed lo­cal veg­eta­bles, lo­cal herbs, black gar­lic aioli; or braised lamb shoul­der and lab­neh aioli, which all ar­rive with a jug of vir­gin san­gria or four cold hops, or a bot­tle of house grape for Dh310.

The ‘Va­len­ciana’ de­liv­ered to our ta­ble af­fected us thus: the exquisitel­y put to­gether or­ganic bomba rice, rab­bit, chicken, lima beans, pa­prika and saf­fron recipe was one of the most re­fresh­ing yet hearty plates to which we had sat down in months and, there­fore, pro­voked a gush­ing of pi­geon-span­ish su­perla­tives we’re sure not only em­bar­rassed us, but must have at best raised a smile from the sur­round­ing na­tive speak­ers. “De­li­ciosa”, “mar­avil­losa”, “mas, por fa­vor” were all in­vol­un­tary re­ac­tions be­tween bites. In par­tic­u­lar the chicken’s ten­der­ness com­bined with a multi-sea­soned vi­vac­ity will have us re­turn­ing be­fore the fes­ti­val is up. If you have room, a side or­der of patatas bravas that ar­rive in chunky chip form and grilled oc­to­pus with truf­fle mash will also never be an un­wel­come ad­di­tion.

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