DSC07572(Chicago) – Rice is the star of every Filipino meal.  Other than steamed white rice, Filipinos enjoy so many variations of rice dishes like Chinese fried rice (yang chow), garlic rice, adobo rice, tinapa rice (smoked fish), black rice (squid ink) and the list goes on.  My favorite of all is the Spanish version, paella. Finding really good paella, or at least a decent one, in Manila is not difficult at all.  The Philippines was under Spain for 300 year and its influences are still very evident in the culture, especially in food.  Before I decided to leave Manila for good and settled for a chillier life in Chicago, I had spent countless memorable paella dinners at Casa Armas, Minggoy’s, Café Adriatico, Guernica’s, Ilustrado, to name a few.

Paella is not straight-forward fried rice.  Making paella requires a lot expertise and money.  Yes, you need some skills to produce a perfectly tender rice grain without over-cooking the other ingredients. You need some extra money too since most of the ingredients, like seafood and saffron, are not cheap.  As much as I desire to become a paella expert soon, I know I need a few more years of practice and a bigger kitchen. While waiting for “that” moment to arrive, I will improvise and make my own inexpensive version of paella without losing the Spanish flavor; hence the name of this dish, Paella a la Pobre (Poor Man’s Paella).


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups of long-grain rice
  • 3 ½ cups Chicken broth + ½ cups
  • ¼ tsp saffron (powdered)
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • Lemon wedge
  • 1 lb chicken wings (Cut, discard tips)
  • 1 lb chorizo
  • 1 cup sweet peas
  • 6 boiled eggs cut into wedges


Prepare chicken wings separately and ahead of time.  Season it with poultry seasoning or just plain salt and pepper.  Broil it on high for 8 minutes on each side. Alternatively, just pan fry the wings until brown.

Cook the rice separately using a medium sauce pan or rice cooker.  Put rice, 3 ½ cups chicken broth and saffron in rice cooker. Stir the rice once while cooking.  Once cooked, fluff the rice with a fork and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium high. Sauté garlic and onion until onion turns translucent. Add diced tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add bell peppers, cumin, salt, pepper, chorizo, sweet peas, chicken wings and cook for 10 minutes more.  Pour remaining ½ cup chicken broth simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice and mix well.  Let the rice absorb the sauce. Leave the mixture steady over heat for the next 5 minutes or longer to toast the bottom portion of paella. Be careful not to burn it.  Transfer to a big serving dish and garnish with egg wedges on top and lemon wedges on the side.




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