Spanish food is quite different from that of many other European countries in that it makes heavy use of rice; a staple that is more commonly associated with Asian countries. In order to understand exactly why the Spanish use rice so much in their cuisine it is beneficial to recount the history of Spanish rice. Spain was ruled by the Moors, who in turn were heavily influenced by the cuisine and culture of Muslim Arabs form the Middle East. It is widely believed that it was the Moors who laid the foundation stone in the history of Spanish rice by introducing it to the local population. By the time the Moors were expelled from Spain more than 700 years after they first arrived, rice had already developed a long established history among the Spanish people who were not prepared to abandon it.
The fact that rice came to the Spanish from the Moors is supported with linguistic evidence. The Spanish word for rice is ‘arroz’ which seems to come directly from the Arabic word for rice which is ‘al- ruzz’.
Spanish Rice Today
Today the term Spanish rice is often used to denote a specific dish that is served as a side dish made from white rice, tomatoes, garlic, onions, parsley, cilantro as well as a few other ingredients. One common cooking method for Spanish rice is to saute the rice until golden brown and cook it in chicken broth. Vegetables including carrots and peas or corn may also be used depending on the recipe.
Spanish rice is a popular dish in the Southwest of the United States, where it often features liberal portions of grilled and stewed vegetables. The version of Spanish rice cooked throughout South America tends to be more standardized, often with just enough tomato and chili to provide the characteristic reddish orange color and a smoky, garlic and onion taste. It is frequently served as a side dish alongside other Venezuelan and other South American Cuisine.