“要确保西班牙肉菜饭是正宗的，必须保证食材新鲜且必须按照客户要求现场制作，”厨师兼La Pepica经理Gustavo Sierra解释说。 “重要的是米饭要刚好煮熟，不要过生或者过熟。正如意大利人所说的 ‘al dente’，它必须略有嚼劲。同样重要的是，米饭要松散并且没有粘在一起，从而保持其口感和光泽。”
14:00左右，来自全市的家庭开始在La Pepica聚会，在周日午餐时吃海鲜饭。 餐厅的正门位于厨房的前部，而后门则面向大海。 因此，当客人到达时，他们会经过厨师，并在等待时观看在明火下制作的西班牙海鲜饭的戏剧性舞蹈。 如今，从传统的瓦伦西亚海鲜饭到西班牙海鲜饭，甚至是龙虾海鲜饭配上用乌贼墨制成的黑米饭，海鲜饭的种类更多了。
实际上，海明威过去经常在1959年在La Pepica闲逛，以至于偶尔在厨房里帮忙。 他甚至在他的小说《危险的夏天》中谈到了这家餐厅，并指出：“La Pepica 的晚餐很棒，海鲜和巴伦西亚米饭是海滩上最好的菜”，因此也有助于在国外推广西班牙海鲜饭。
Walking along the vast sweep of Valencia’s Malvarrosa beachfront as the waves lapped the shore, I came to the first in a long line of restaurants, the light and airy La Pepica. I’d arrived just before lunch service and the chefs were lighting up the wood-fuelled stoves and pulling down the heavy carbon steel pans as part of their daily hour-long prep. Between walls of decorative blue-and-white tiles, huge bowls of chopped chicken, rabbit, snails and beans stood on the counters, ready to become part of Spain’s most famous dish: paella valenciana.
Today, paella is served at every Spanish restaurant from London to Los Angeles, but this ancient rice dish originated in the fields and lagoons around Valencia.
Chef Honorino Antón and his team soon got to work. First, the chefs added meat or seafood to hot olive oil. In some pans, chicken and rabbit sizzled, while in others, pink prawns danced and spat. One chef was in charge of preparing the sofrito – an essential part of any paella dish, consisting of sautéed tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil. Clouds of paprika and steam began to fill the air, and Honorino sprinkled in saffron threads, changing the colour of the ingredients to an intense yellow. The very last ingredient is the most important: the rice, which the cooks poured in a cross-like motion, allowing for an even spread on the bottom of the pan as it the grains fell between the other ingredients.
“To ensure a paella is authentic, the ingredients must be fresh and the paella must be made to order,” explained Gustavo Sierra, chef and La Pepica’s manager. “It’s important that the rice is just cooked, not underdone and not over. It must still have a slight chew, as the Italians say, ‘al dente’. It’s also essential that the rice is loose and hasn’t stuck together, thus maintaining its texture and shine.”
While La Pepica has stayed true to its roots, most of Valencia’s restaurants now prepare their paellas on gas or sometimes electric stoves.
It was the rice farmers who actually created the first paellas, adding animals and ingredients that they would normally have raised at home or had to hand in the fields.
Historians differ on the exact origin of paella; however, when the Moors conquered Spain around 711AD, they began growing rice in the country. During the week, people would eat rice on its own because it was cheap, and at the weekends, they would eat it alongside a meat or fish stew. Over the years, the stew evolved and people loved its versatility, and the way in which they could add seasonal produce to the dish.
At around 14:00, families from all over the city started gathering at La Pepica to eat paella for their Sunday lunch. The restaurant’s main entrance is at the front through the kitchens, while the back entrance faces the sea. So as guests arrive, they pass the chefs and can watch the theatrical dance of the paellas being made over the open flames while they wait. Today, several paellas are being made, from the traditional paella valenciana to the paella de mariscos, and even lobster paella and black rice made with squid ink.
In fact, Hemingway used to hang out at La Pepica so often in 1959 that he’d occasionally help in the kitchens. He even wrote about the restaurant in his novel, The Dangerous Summer, stating: “Dinner at Pepica’s was wonderful… the seafood and the Valencian rice dishes were the best on the beach”, thus helping to popularise paella abroad, too.