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International Paella

Paella is a well-known Spanish rice dish originated in the Valencia region in eastern Spain. It is a combination of rice, meat or seafood, and vegetable cooked in a shallow open pan. Originally, the word paella refers to cooking pans. With the growing popularity of the dish, the word now comes to represent the dish.

Paella was first cooked up in open air in the 18th century using ingredients on hand in the field. As living standards improved over time, so are the ingredients incorporated into dish. Today, the variety of paella ingredients is only limited by our imagination.


Some believe that paella evolved from the Moorish rice casserole, which was made by mixing leftovers into rice. This belief is determined to be inaccurate from a historical perspective. Nevertheless, the Moorish traditional is a great idea for making the best use of our resources.

Borrowing from this tradition, the essence of this International Paella recipe is to fully utilize what is available while exercising our creativity. It is possible to make a delicious meal with leftovers without sweat. The key is in the sauce.


We are used to having a main ingredient as the theme of a dish. The idea for the International Paella is to use a strong-flavored sauce to create a dominating theme for the dish. The goal is to shift the attention to the amazing flavors of the dish rather than the mixed ingredients.

Here are some ideas for the theme sauce.

  • Curry

  • Black bean paste

  • Oyster sauce

  • Tomato sauce

First select the leftovers that have complementary tastes. Then choose a theme sauce that would work well with the flavors of your leftover dishes. As for the grain/starch, I go with what is available - rice, pasta, bulgar, grilled potato, ... Your creativity is the limit.


Just last night, I did my weekly sweep of my fridge to clean out all the leftovers before I do my grocery shopping. Here is what I found: extra cooked bulgar, leftover vegetable fried rice and pineapple ginger tofu from a Chinese cookout the night before, grilled portobello leftover from a lunch salad, and spinach salad in a box. I always have some ginger, garlic and onions on hand. I decided to go with Thai curry as its flavor goes well with the pineapple-ginger taste.

Dinner was practically ready in 15 minutes:

  • Heat some oil

  • Drop in chopped ginger

  • Add chopped onion and stir till it becomes semi-translucent

  • Add chopped garlic and stir till it becomes fragrant

  • Add curry sauce

  • Drop in the ingredients, for me that include tofu, portobello, bulgar and fried rice

  • When the ingredients are warmed up, stir in the spinach till it softens up

  • Add salt and pepper to taste

The amount of each ingredient required depends on the amount you have on hand, the number of servings you are preparing, and the brand of the sauce you are using. You creativity is your recipe!


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