This one-pot meal inspired by the Spanish dish, paella, is prepared with spices, rice, vegetables, seafood, chorizo, and kimchi, and is perfect for sharing.
While paella is traditionally cooked with some saffron, rice, vegetables, chicken and seafood in a single pan, there are many variations of paella. There is vegetable paella, seafood paella, chicken paella, and mixed paella. My own adaptation includes vegetables, seafood, chorizo, and, of course, kimchi. For seafood, I use shrimp and a few mussels. But if you would like to add more seafood, I have seen other recipes add clams and calamari. For the chorizo, I like to get the soft, uncooked ones, uncase them and cook the ground meat inside so that there is some smoky, savory chorizo in every bite. The kimchi also adds a subtle tang and some additional spice.
Short or medium grain rice, namely Bomba, is used in paella since it absorbs flavors very well. I had to use Arborio rice since I couldn’t find Bomba rice at my local grocer. Arborio rice is an Italian short grain rice that is used to make risotto. Although it is a sufficient rice substitute, Arborio rice makes a creamier sauce as it releases more starch. When cooked, Arborio rice is also softer than paella rice, which when cooked has a more al dente bite.
Try not to stir the rice in paella too much to prevent the starches from releasing and creating that thick, gooey consistency. It also allows the rice to cook undisturbed and create the crispy, sought after socarrat.
The socarrat, or toasted layer of rice at the bottom of the pan, reminds me of a similar, crispy rice layer that forms at the bottom of the hot stone bowl in a Korean dish called dolsot bibimbap. You can find my recipe for al dolsot bibimbap here. I like to make sure I get some of this extra flavorful socarrat into my serving of paella.
COOKING WITH MUSSELS
Get mussels with shells that are tightly closed, moist, shiny, and not chipped as these all indicate their freshness. Although it is best to cook with the mussels the day of, you can still save them in the refrigerator for up to two days by covering them in a bowl with a damp paper towel or kitchen towel.
Mussels sold at the grocery store are usually farm-raised, and so for the most part are clean. You don’t have to worry about soaking them beforehand to purge them of any sand. If at home you find some mussels with their shells open, lightly tap on the shell. If the shells don’t close, discard the dead mussel. To clean the mussels, place them in a colander under running cold water, and gently scrub away any debris, barnacles, or mud spots.
You also want to debeard the mussels. The “beard” looks like a bundle of fibers sticking out of the shell. Remove the beard by grabbing it with a small piece of paper towel between your thumb and index finger, pulling it toward the hinge of the mussel shell. Then, firmly pull until it comes out. Farm-raised mussels are usually already debearded.
Paella is traditionally cooked in a wide and shallow, carbon steel pan. If you don’t have a paella pan, you could use any large, shallow skillet that allows for even cooking. I use my cast iron skillet. Also, while paella is cooked mostly uncovered, my inspired version is cooked covered with a lid. Since the ingredients in my recipe are cooked consecutively on the same pan, clean up is also easy.
I admit that my inspired version of paella is not authentic in terms of ingredients or preparation (and maybe even taste), but I still find it quite delicious in its own way.
Hope you enjoy!
MISE EN PLACE
If you make this Kimchi Paella, I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 links chorizo, uncased (uncooked)
- 160 g onion, chopped (about ½ an onion)
- 2 cups kimchi, chopped
- 150 g red bell pepper, chopped/sliced (about 1 red bell pepper)
- ¼ cup green peas, frozen
- 7 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup arborio rice, uncooked
- 14 oz diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 ⅓ cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 6 shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 4 mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the uncased chorizo to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes, making sure to break apart any big chunks.
- Add the onions, kimchi, and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until the onions soften.
- Stir in the Arborio rice (no need to wash the rice beforehand) and fire roasted tomatoes, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and gently stir in the paprika and saffron.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for another 15 minutes or until most of the liquid reduces.
- Add the red bell pepper, green peas, shrimp, mussels over the rice and let it cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on or until mussels open up.
- Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately with lemon wedges.