• Words by Sonia

From the Sea, Arroz a Banda

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Arroz a banda is original from Alicante, and it's main ingredients are rice, fish and saffron. However, its genesis is much older. The Greeks had similar preparations made on a cauldron after learning how to use fire to cook the fish and acquiring saffron from the Middle East.

Such a concoction is even mentioned in Greek mythology in Hellas, when Aphrodite and Hephaestus got married. It was not a happy marriage, as Hephaestus was a jealous man, and Aphrodite was a free woman who gave her affections to whomever she wished. To gain some liberty at times, Aphrodite gave her husband a dish of saffron and fish, which had soporific effects so he would sleep heavily. Hmmm! not sure about that, but I can guarantee a nice siesta (nap) afterwards.

Back in Spain, the fishermen from Alicante had been mixing fish, garlic, olive oil, saffron and parsley in their cauldrons for ages. The broth that they made was called "caldero" which in the Spanish language means cauldron, taking its name from the container it which it was cooked. This means that arroz a banda is just a version of this as it is made on a paella pan.

The broth for arroz a banda is prepared with cheap and common fish (remember, this dish was originally developed by fishermen!) mainly any variety of small rock fish which have lots of fish bones but also lots of taste. As it happens the value of these fish was very low, so they constituted the fishermen's sustenance as any more pricey fish they sold in the market.