What is fideua?
Fideua (Spanish spelling: fideuà, pronounced: “fi.dəˈwa”) is a Spanish one-pan dish consisting of seafood, fish and pasta, slowly simmered in a rich fish broth. The name is derived from the word “fideo”, which means “noodle”. Fideua is made in a large shallow pan, just like paella, and is served with a spoonful of fragrant aioli. You’ll usually find long thin types of pasta in fideua, such as broken pieces of spaghetti, vermicelli or capellini.
To be blunt, fideua is pretty much the same as paella but made with pasta instead of rice. However, this Valencian speciality has earned its own respect and is loved in the region just as much as paella. In the province of Catalonia, it is almost the dish of the region, and the city of Gandía holds an annual fideua cooking competition. It is certainly doesn’t play second fiddle to the famous paella!
The stories about the origin of the dish are all slightly different, though they all involve fishermen and fishing boats. Paella was a dish that was widely eaten by fishermen, and they used up fish that had not been sold at market that day. One day, sometime in the early years of the last century, a cook in a galley on a ship left his bag of rice ashore. Or the rice ran out. Or the rice version turned out to be too delicious, so the captain ate too much and there was too little for the sailors. It depends on who you ask. Anyway, the rice was replaced by pasta and a new dish was born. It was brought ashore in Valencia and the dish has since become a constant fixture on Spanish menus.
Did you know?
Spanish chefs cannot agree on whether or not tomatoes belong in Fideua. You’ll find both versions, and in each case, the chef will argue that his version is “the real one”.
How to make fideua
A fragrant stock, preferably made from shrimp shells, forms the base. Bits of thin pasta, such as spaghetti, capellini or vermicelli, are browned in a large, shallow pan in oil. Seasonings, such as saffron, bell pepper and garlic, are briefly fried before the broth is added, along with shellfish, molluscs and fish. Mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and squid are favourite ingredients. When the pasta has cooked and most of the fish broth has been absorbed, the dish can rest for a while. It is garnished with parsley, lemon juice and a dollop of aioli on top.
How to eat
The dish is served in soup plates or bowls. It won’t win a beauty prize but what fideua lacks in beauty, it makes up for in taste.
In terms of taste and appearance, paella is very similar to fideua. Even more striking is the similarity with the Spanish dish, arroz a banda; rice cooked in fish broth.