You may be familiar with the bomba rice dish paella, but get to know the caldero del Mar Menor or arroz caldero, a famous dish from Murcia with creamy rice cooked in sofrito with different kinds of fish. Literally translated, “arroz caldero” means rice cauldron and “caldero Murcia” is even more specific, Murcian cauldron.
History of Caldero Murcia
In the 19th century arroz caldero was prepared by fishermen on the beaches of the Mar Menor, which was in part a matter of economy as the small fish they were not able to sell went into the cauldron instead. You can see the kind of iron cauldron, used on fishermen’s boats, depicted by Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla in his painting, “Meal on the Boat.” These days, October 12, National Spanish Day is considered “día de caldero” in Los Alcazares where you can make arroz caldero on the beach with family.
What is Arroz Caldero?
Traditionally caldero Murcia is eaten in several parts. An adage helps here: “move like a fish in water between pots and pans.” In the caldero associated with Murcia, white fish flavors the stock to use in cooking the short grain rice for its ability to absorb liquid to a creamy consistency similar to risotto and a dollop of aioli on the final rice dish. Then, as a next course, the fish is eaten, also with aioli or lemon. But that’s only part of the story. Olive oil warms garlic and ñoras, small dried red peppers, tempering the aromatics and seasoning the oil with an addition later of tomato and saffron.
Tips + Recipes for Making the Caldero
- Consider using a white fish like sea bass or mullet to serve on the side.
- Take care to not let the flame get too hot when tempering the ñoras, as they can go from toasty to burned quickly and require starting over.
- Pair this arroz caldero with a dry white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Once you know how many people are coming for dinner, for portion size, use one coffee cup of dry rice per person.
Bring a taste of traditional Murcian cuisine home and make yourself at home in Murcia.