Strolling down Barcelonaâ€™s avenues, you get a pretty good glimpse of what folks are eating at sidewalk tables of various local restaurants. The one dish that we saw often and that really piqued our interest was something that looked like crispy pansit or baked noodles in a paella pan. I had never seen dish this before and though we never got a chance to order it, I purchased the dry noodles needed to give it go when we got back to Manila. The dish is called FideuÃ¡, pronounced â€œFEE-THEH-WAH.â€ It is apparently the result of an accident in the 1960â€™s when someone forgot to bring the rice for a paella and an adventurous cook tried using thin pasta instead. Fideua was thus created in or around the town of Grandia in Valencia, where paellas reign supreme. In the past 40 years, the dish has become quite popular and variations such as those seen in paella also apply to fideua â€“ seafood, black fideua, meats, etc. While it isnâ€™t native to Barcelona, they serve a lot of it in the cityâ€™s restaurantsâ€¦
My wife was in charge of the fideuÃ¡ experiment(s) last weekend and she made it twice. The first time around, we used some bland-ish kielbasa as suggested in a recipe from a May 1992 Bon Apetit Magazine. It turned out well and was a hit with the kids but we decided to try it again the next day when we had the Spanish guests over for Arroz Negro. We made some modifications and used a better chorizo instead. It tasted great and I think it could become a real favorite among Pinoy gatheringsâ€¦ First, letâ€™s talk about fideo, the thin noodles that are used in the dish. They look like Angel hair pasta but cut shorter, to say an inch or two in length. If you canâ€™t find fideo, use angel hair pasta instead. Here is our recipe… you need to sautÃ© some chopped onion and garlic in a paella pan on your stove top. We used one whole white onion and several cloves of garlic. Saute some good chorizo bilbao, sliced. We used three pieces. Then add some chopped green or red bell peppers (we used the more flavorful local versions) and Â½ a pound of chopped mushrooms. Add 3 teaspoons of good sweet paprika (or spicy if you like) and a pinch of cayenne pepper and stir for half a minute or so. Add 3 cups of chicken broth, Â½ cup of white wine, some chopped tomatoes (we used half a small can of peeled whole tomatoes, and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and add about 500 grams or slightly less of noodles. Stir and cook on the stove top until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Add a bit more chicken broth if it appears to be drying up too fast. Put into a pre-heated 400 degree oven and let it bake for about 25 minutes or until the top noodles are crisp and crunchy. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. I am not sure I would attempt this on a fairly hot charcoal fire…the noodles might singe… You can sprinkle it with chopped flat leaf parsley if you like. The second version we made tasted terrific, a bit like baked spaghetti but the flavor of paprika and the chorizo made this uniquely Spanish. The crispy noodles up top are crunchy but as you dig into the dish it is soft flavorful pasta. Yum. However, I actually like a rice paella better because I think the rice absorbs the flavor better but the noodles were a nice change. As far as accidents go, this is one dish that turned out really well for the hapless cook who forgot to bring the riceâ€¦