30 Nov2005

It is extremely rare that I would agree that using an “artificial” ingredient is pae1better than using the “real thing”. Arroz Negro(rice in squid ink) is probably one of those rare occasions… using packaged squid ink results in a far more intense black rice that is the trademark of this dish. Before heading out to the beach last weekend, I had already planned to make a arroz negro(for the first time ever!)…and in usual Marketman style, I wanted to do it as “all-natural” as possible. The visual of intense black rice with orange and red crabs, prawns and of course, white squid was stuck in my mind and I could “see” the dish before I even attempted it. A visit to the market on Saturday yielded superb seafood – good alimasag (blue crabs), medium sized prawns and small squid so the experiment was on. Serious performance anxiety was added at about 9 a.m. when my wife invited some friends who just happened to be Spanish and members of the diplomatic corps for lunch… “What?!?”, I asked semi-stricken by fear, “we are having Spaniards to a paella lunch experiment???” Have we lost it? Yikes!

I started by making a seafood broth from scratch by boiling up some very fresh pae2sliced whole maya-maya (snapper), a lapu lapu (grouper) head, a talakitok (jack) sliced, shrimp shells and heads, a chopped onion, a few tomatoes and some salt and pepper. After about 30 minutes, I strained the broth and kept it heated until it was added to the paella. To make the arroz negro, I put a medium sized paellera on a hot barbecue outdoors, added some olive oil, added some chopped onion and stirred briefly, added several cups of short-grained paella rice and coated with the hot oil. I then added the fish broth and spread the rice about the pan evenly. Next, I added the all-natural and super pain in the rear obtained squid ink then some crab, prawns and finally, the squid. I garnished with some sliced locally grown red pepper and generously seasoned with sea salt. I watched the broth with increasing trepidation as it turned a nice gray with blackish portions that bubbled away. But as the dish came close to being done, the rice did not turn black…it looked like a sickly gray…oh no, the Spaniards are coming!!!

A last minute attempt to add more all-natural squid ink did nothing to improve the color and I pulled the arroz negro off the fire hoping it would taste okay albeit lacking in color. Just in case the arroz negro was a disaster, I threw on a smaller paellera and made a chicken and prawn paella as a back-up. The verdict? Our guests let on that you need to use the artificial or concentrated packets or sachets of squid ink to achieve the intense black paella I was seeking…I couldn’t believe that the packet was better than the real ink.!!! But the true test was in the taste… and the guests gave the paella a two thumbs up…great flavor and texture, it just lacked the blackness. Making the fish broth from scratch is an essential part of building the right flavor for this dish, but laboring with fresh squid ink extraction was not that useful…I will use the packets of ink the next time around!



  1. edee says:

    haven’t tried this paella yet, this seems to be easier to do than the chicken paella? …. spaniards as your tasters, who else would be perfect for the job ? :)

    Nov 30, 2005 | 11:40 pm


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  3. kong wi says:

    hi MM…i would call your dish “paella negra ala marketman”…paella cannot have it’s own ink, ergo, cannot be “en su tinta”…like “calamares o pulpo en su tinta”…but then again, what’s in a name, if by any other name would taste as good…

    Dec 1, 2005 | 2:10 am

  4. Pete says:

    Oh Paella. I try to make this dish about 3 times a year. On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on a nice hot Summer day. I invite my friends and family for some good old beer and Paella. I call it my $100 dish. Its just wrong to skimp out on ingredients. Saffron, which is my favorite spice, is more expensive than reeffer at $16 per gram. Then there’s shrimp, crab legs, cray fish, new zealand green mussels, clams, spanish chorizo, chicken breast and bomba(paella rice). Its all worth it. I enjoy making it outdoors even in the winter time. Standing out on the porch huddled with around the paellera for warmth while drinking a beer just feels so good.

    Dec 1, 2005 | 5:01 am

  5. Marketman says:

    kong wi, you are right, have changed the name, thanks! Pete, I have an earlier recipe for a really over the top version with a serious sofrito with oodles of saffron… edee, you can do this in your neck of the woods, just buy the packaged squid ink…

    Dec 1, 2005 | 6:46 am

  6. Ichabod says:

    Where do you buy packaged squid ink?

    Dec 1, 2005 | 8:03 am

  7. joey says:

    Hey there Marketman! This is one of my mom’s specialties…and she does use that packaged ink :) But, as you say, the true test is the taste…and getting two thumbs up from the Spaniards is no easy feat…that broth sounds delicious and is really a key element.

    Dec 1, 2005 | 9:13 am

  8. Gigi says:

    We’re on the same wavelength. I have been strangely having paella dreams. Haunting dreams. Dreams that I’m cooking skillfully. I’m blaming it on the book I’m reading “The Making of a Chef” by Michael Ruhlman. So where do I get packaged ink? I love the paella valenciana of Azzuro btw and also of Terry Selection. My paella dreams continue….

    Dec 1, 2005 | 10:00 am

  9. wysgal says:

    It is a bit of a nightmare to be cooking experimental dishes with (new!) guests over — I experiment on my immediate family, or on friends that are not afraid to tell it like it is.

    I’ve been wanting to do more cooking outdoors but I think our outdoor grill is long gone … MM did you cook your paella over direct fire or hot coals?

    Dec 1, 2005 | 10:42 am

  10. Marketman says:

    wysgal, I cook on a weber barbecue grill over hot coals… Squid Ink is for sale at Terry’s selection and other high-end deli’s. It doesn’t cost that much for PHP240 I think you get like 8 packets or sachets.

    Dec 1, 2005 | 1:54 pm

  11. Noelle says:

    Oh, I had no idea there was such a thing as packaged squid ink! No wonder Congo Grille’s congo rice and The Old Spaghetti House’s pasta negra are so black. :)

    Dec 1, 2005 | 2:43 pm

  12. ana says:

    I’m planning a picnic for Sunday and this looks perfect. Plus, I love anything with squid ink. I’ll try, wish me luck! Oh btw, Mr. MM, I have once again failed. I was in Tagaytay last Sunday and I was looking for Toscana but didn’t find it. I didn’t remember where it was (as indicated in your post) so I just looked for it the entire way to Tagaytay! Oh well, maybe this Sunday. I now know it’s near Caltex. I also went to Divisoria two days ago and I wanted to check out the paper place you go to for my gift boxes and again I can’t find it. Too bad since I even took a day off from work and I don’t know when I could go again. Consequently, I can’t wrap my Christmas presents just yet. =( Although, I bought this gift wrapper for Php35 for 10 pcs. that’s very classy and elegant. It’s red with gold writings and has an embossed texture to it, doesn’t look cheap at all! Actually looks like you spent more for the wrapper than the gift haha! I bought it at a giftwrapper store infront Divisoria mall. Sorry, wrong topic. =D

    Dec 1, 2005 | 4:44 pm

  13. melissa says:

    No no no MarketMan! If you use ink from the thicker-variety squid (plentiful in Cebu) the resulting dish would be black as night. This is the big squid used for calamares.

    I often make ‘black rice’ using this type of squid and I tell you, it’s definitely black, not gray. See here, please: http://thebeebox.typepad.com/thebeebox/2005/03/easter_and_ever.html

    and for a bigger pic: http://thebeebox.typepad.com/black-rice.jpg

    Dec 1, 2005 | 5:28 pm

  14. marketman says:

    melissa, glad to hear this can be done from scratch. Okay, bigger thicker squid. But I need details… do you just squeeze the ink out or do you dissolve it in water before you use it? Do you boil it in water to make it soluble into the main paella? How is it done? Thanks…

    Dec 2, 2005 | 4:40 am

  15. schatzli says:

    the first time I cooked risotto with squids, it didnt really turn negra.. but greyish. oh but its the taste that counts though I was wishing it was darker.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 5:16 am

  16. Ellen says:

    I collect squid ink from the enormous squids i buy from the seafood market here in melbourne. I still prefer it than the packaged one. Have u tried ‘risotto nero’ (black risotto) MM? well, it is kinda like ur paella without all the trimmings :-) But the colour i get from the fresh squid inks is incomparable. Talagang maitim and tastes more authentic :-)

    Dec 2, 2005 | 7:36 am

  17. oscar says:

    Thinking in reverse, how about using pirurutung instead of paella rice? I’ve seen a recipe from Cendrillon using pirurutung to achieve a good level of blackness.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 10:41 am

  18. sister says:

    Use cuttlefish ink, just press the sacs to remove the black ink, collect in a cup and add with your fish stock, but use tiny squid in the paella. You can adobo the cuttlefish for another meal.

    Dec 3, 2005 | 9:07 am

  19. rampau says:

    I have to try this black paella. There was a restaurant in the Greenbelt parking building, Four Seasons I think, that served black spaghetti with squid. It had lots of garlic and I think a splash of balsamic. I thought it was yummy. The place is now occupied by Burger King. Yuck. I was wondering how they can make it so black, so this must be it. Thanks for the tip.

    Dec 4, 2005 | 12:34 am

  20. melissa says:

    Ooooh, a mini discussion I’m glad to elaborate!

    What I do with the large squid is take out the ink sacs, for about 10 cups cooked rice I use 3-4 ink sacs, that’s how black they get. I saute the sacs in a little oil and some minced ginger, add about 1/4 cup water to help distribute it evenly throughout the rice.

    For black rice, I add in the cooked sauteed squid pieces later and sprinkle browned garlic, chopped onion leaves, and fried bits of chorizo bilbao on top before serving.

    Even my 1 year old little boy gobbles this stuff up, and he give me happy grins with his black teeth. Yum!

    Dec 5, 2005 | 11:10 am

  21. Moo ha ha says:

    I’m very sorry to report this, but the writing is so small i cant read it :(

    Oh well, i guesse i will have to go to another site,

    (Thanks heeps and heeps)
    Moo ha ha

    Dec 5, 2005 | 4:42 pm

  22. Pia says:

    Marketman, I use the ink from the “lumot” squid for my pasta, and my dish is black as night. Lumot squid (as they call it in the market) is whitish, thicker and bigger (this tyoe is more popularly used for grilling) than the “pusit bisaya” which is pinkish and thinner. Just pull out the ink sacs and add it to your broth or after you saute your flavor base.

    Dec 14, 2005 | 10:12 am

  23. Jordi says:

    Nice try. Your heart was in the right place. I’d never attempt a new dish for guests; learned my lesson there too. Paella negra or risotto nero should be “black”; that’s part of the appeal. I use the sachets all the time and if you come accross a recipe; double the amount of ink…the darker, the better. By the way, you should also add saffron for the flavor. I make this dish and risotto nero often and always keep stock of the ink “sachets”. They will last long in the refridgerator (and must be kept refrigerated). Keep cooking….and eating well.

    Dec 17, 2005 | 3:25 pm

  24. Jordi says:

    The trick with real ink sacks is to mix it with red wine (maybe 1 to 1 ratio). But doubt if it adds flavor or achieves the dark black color you see in the restaurants or cook books….that’s because they use the sachets.

    Dec 17, 2005 | 3:35 pm

  25. Marisa says:

    I made paella with squid ink, just 1 squid and it turned really black, although not the lip and teeth tinting kind. It was an accident actually, I cooked paella for New Year and my mom bought this big squid for it. While cooking the paella there were too many ingredients that it would surely not fit our pan, so I cooked it in two batches. The second batch accidentally included the ink and it turned black.. very black. Unfortunately I have no pictures to show and no leftovers too couldnt believe it, we thought there’d be so much leftover we’d get tired of it.

    Jan 14, 2006 | 5:13 pm

  26. chona k. rosell says:

    may i know from your kind heart what is the color of the fresh ” kasoy” cashew?

    thanks a lot..

    chona rosell

    Jun 12, 2007 | 2:19 pm

  27. Marketman says:

    Chona, it’s pale creamy color…I have a post on fresh kasoy elsewhere in the blog if you haven’t seen it, but no photo of a newly cracked open kasoy…

    Jun 12, 2007 | 3:08 pm

  28. Angie from NY says:

    Where do you buy packaged squid ink?

    Jul 19, 2008 | 2:57 am

  29. Cecil says:

    Agree! I use plenty of ink from “lumot” squid which i get at Farmer’s Market in Cubao to make it really black and full of flavor. The sachet from Terry’s Selection can get it dark but as expected, flavor is not as good as the fresh ink. With a better flavor, you end up keeping a lot of “lumot” squid in your freezer whenever you need the ink only for the “paella” or “pasta nero”.

    Dec 28, 2008 | 6:08 am

  30. Nathan says:

    Hi Noelle. I doubt if Old Spaghetti House takes uses real squid ink. Congo Grille, I think, would be more likely to use squid ink from sacs harvested from all the lumot that they grill up night after night. If, uhm…, ‘it’ comes out tinted green from the other end the morning after, the kitchen used black food coloring.

    I make paella negra too with the squid ink from Terry’s Selection. The box says 1g is good for 100g of rice but if I remember right, I used more than that.

    Apr 7, 2009 | 11:36 am


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