Fideua: The Poor Man's Paella
Dear Mr. Gold:
Where in L.A. can I get fideua? I don’t want paella. Growing up Cuban I have eaten plenty of rice, and there is something special about the sauce gooping up with the vermicelli — although don’t get me wrong. Paella is good, just not the same. Also, I’m a little on the low-income side of things, and don’t feel like shelling out mad cash.
—Kyle G., Venice
Dear Kyle G.:
Fideua is immensely satisfying to cook. You make quarts of an insanely strong fish stock and then cook the noodles in a paella pan, preferably over an open fire, until the stock reduces and bubbles and finally caramelizes. There should be a lot of saffron, but you don’t need fancy lobsters or monkfish filets: just the noodles, and a ton of aioli. My former colleague Colman Andrews has a pretty good recipe in his Catalan Cuisine, although I found my grail oddly enough in an overfancy tourist restaurant on the oceanfront promenade in Sitges.
Restaurant fideua, like restaurant paella, is nearly impossible to find in its exemplary form in Los Angeles, where the Spanish population has never been that large. (As far as I know, the Catalan community consists of one guy: Pau Gasol.) But although the version at the venerable La Paella may be too soupy for my taste, and loaded with too much seafood, the place is owned by an actual Valencia native, and the fideua, although it plays second fiddle to the paella, is better than passable. It’ll do just fine until you get back to Spain. 476 S San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 951-0745.
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