Arroz negro is a dish closely related to paella and arroz a banda as it uses seafood products as ingredients, but it has its own special flavors and appearance which makes it very characteristic, though similar preparation methods and the typical Spanish container paella (same as the dish) are used. A paella dish is a flat pan that was specifically designed for the preparation of these Spanish rices dishes as it cooks the rice evenly. If you don't have a paella then you could always use a large, flat-bottomed fryingpan instead.
What gives arroz negro its appearance is natural squid ink. This also gives the dish its name. Those of you who study Spanish may know that 'negro' means black, and 'arroz' means rice. Hence this dish is called 'black rice' as it is black in colour. Some restaurants cheat and use vegetable carbon pills instead, in that case don't eat it! Vegetable carbon is contraindicated and can be harmful. However in Spain most restaurants use the natural and proper ingredient. If you are planning on making this dish at home, there are two main ways of getting squid ink. The first is to but some fresh squid and extract the ink from them. However, this may be a little fiddly. Therefore there are some specialist shops that will sell squid inks in jars which will take out the hassle for you.
Arroz negro is originally from Castellon in Valencia and Catalonia. In Tarragona there's an important arroz negro tradition too. In fact the dish is commonly found in many of the coastal regions of Spain. The dish is also made in other places around the world as well, including the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Here the dish is known as 'arroz con calamares', which means 'rice with squid'. Just like many other dishes its preparation has historically depended on the available ingredients, so it's not an exact science, although traditionally seafood such as squid and it's ink, cuttlefish and shrimp are used, and vegetables such as onion, and garlic.
Arroz negro is often served with the Spanish garlic mayonnaise sauce, alioli, just like a lot of the rice dishes to be found here on Spanish food. The garlic in the sauce goes well with the garlic rice and keeps the dish moist. Alioli is easy to find in Spanish supermarkets or you can have a go at making it yourself by following our recipe.
If you visit Spain we recommend that you take a Spanish cooking course in Valencia or Catalonia so that you can learn how to make this dish and many others. What better souvenir to bring home than some good Spanish recipes!
Ingredients (four portions):