Types of Original Rice Paella
There are three basic types of rice grain: Short grain (Japonica), long grain (Indica), and medium grain (hybrid). Long grain and brown rice account for a very small percentage of the rice grown in Spain. Traditional varieties grown and eaten in Spain have been the short grain, almost round varieties, which are very suitable for the classic Spanish rice-based dishes, such as paella. The traditional varieties of rice from Spain are:
Bomba – also called Valencia Rice, is a short grain, almost round rice, with a pearly color. It absorbs three times its volume in water as opposed to the average rice grain, which absorbs only twice its volume. This means it absorbs more flavor, and does not stick together. For these reasons, bomba rice is highly prized by cooks. Another difference with the bomba variety is in the way it expands during the cooking process. Instead of cracking open along with length of the grain, it breaks open crosswise and as it cooks, and it expands like an accordion until it reaches three times the length of the raw grain.
Senia and Bahia – short grain rice varieties, similar to bomba that also absorb more than the average amount of liquid, and retain a creamy texture after cooking. They are the two most widely grown varieties of rice grown in Spain.
Calasparra – short grain rice grown in the area around town of Calasparra, Murcia. Rice grown in the DO of Calasparra is called Calasparra, however both Balilla X Sollana and Bomba varieties are cultivated there.
Other Varieties of Rice Suitable for Paella
Rice varieties like Bomba, Calasparra, or other high quality, short or medium grain rice are readily available for purchase in Spain. However, if you are in the USA, purchasing these varieties can be difficult, since they are only available via the internet, and at gourmet and ethnic grocery stores. So, use a medium or short grain rice. One alternative that produces wonderful results in Spanish rice dishes is Calrose rice. The Calrose variety is a short grain rice, developed by the Rice Experiment Station at the University of California, Davis from the japonica variety. It was released to growers in 1948, and has been growing in popularity ever since. In fact, it is now widely grown in the Pacific Rim and Australia. Calrose is readily available in supermarkets in the USA, and can be substituted for the Spanish varieties.