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Arroz a Banda

Origin: Valencia, Alicante

Arroz a Banda

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, after learning to use fire to cook the fish, after acquiring saffron from the Middle East and after the cauldron was invented, already had similar preparations.

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.

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 a version of this. This dish came about basically as soon as rice began to be consumed in Spain after it was brought to the country.

This didn't happen until the Moor invasion, as Spanish tended to look down on it as an inferior cereal, used mostly as material for a liniment used to cure skin conditions. So when rice was added to caldero, the people would divide the rice from the broth and eat it separately. In fact that's what a banda means "apart " in Catalan. Basically it was an ingenious way to obtain two dishes instead of one.

There is a contending theory however, popular among the fishermen: the "caldero" would be cooked in a cauldron that was normally placed in a zone of the ship called "banda".

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.

Arroz a banda is often served with alioli sauce which complements the flavours of the rice well. Some people even think that the smell of garlic is a great reminder of the sea, however it is probably more likely to be the salty fish in the dish that does this. Nonetheless, this is a true seaside dish and would be a great choice to make if you are spending some time near the Spanish coast and specially if you want to visit Alicante.

Arroz a Banda | Fish and Rice

Arroz a Banda

Ingredients (four portions):

  • 1 kg of rock fish (scorpion fish, red fish, etc) or other fish such as monkfish, gilthead bream, shellfish and crustaceans, fish heads, etc.)
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • Strands of saffron
  • One tbs of paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbs of pureed tomato
  • 500 grams of round rice
  • 1.5 liter of water, olive oil, salt


  • Take a stewing pot and fill with water. To this add all of the fish, the onion (chopped and peeled beforehand), the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring the pot of water to the boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes
  • Strain the broth and set the fish to one side. There must be one liter of broth left
  • Mix the garlic with the salt and the toasted saffron. Dilute in a little broth
  • Put the paella dish on to the heat and add oil to it. When the pan is hot add the tomatoes, the garlic and saffron mix and paprika. Stir and let it simmer over a low heat for 3 to 4 minutes
  • Add the rice and mix well to ensure that it soaks up the broth properly. Cook over a high heat for 5 minutes and then fora further 15 over a low heat
  • Turn the hob off and let it stand for 5 minutes and serve. The fish broth should be served apart.