This is one of my favorite dishes from the State of Veracruz that originated in the port of Alvarado. This is a fisherman’s dish that as legend has it was prepared by a cook who just “tossed or threw together” the rice with the catch of the day, hence the name in Spanish “a la tumbada.” Many will take a quick look and think that this is similar to a paella, but it is not. This dish is great and has some similarity to a paella but this is much more like a soup.
Important — this is my version! What I always tell my guests is that Mexican cuisine is a living cuisine – it moves over time – which is what makes it so great. Every house has its own mole, their own secret recipe, their own way to make that special dish handed down over the generations.
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups of long grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cups of hot fish broth or water
½ cup white onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
2 cups tomatoes chopped
16 u/8 shrimp peeled and de-veined with tail on
½ cup cooked octopus or squid rings
4 blue crab cleaned and cut in half
1 cup mussels or small clams (whatever you like best or can find freshest)
½ cup peas
½ cup carrot, peeled and cut pea-size
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 or 4 Serrano Chiles chopped
4 limes cut in wedges
Sea salt to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
We will need a large sauté or paella pan about 25 inches in diameter and 4 – 5 inches deep. You will need a lid to cover the pan.
Place the pan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Place the rice and fry for 2 to 3 minutes until the grains are translucid on the outside and white on the inside. Don’t mix the rice. Gently fold the rice so it won’t break and turn mushy after cooking.
Add chopped onion and cook for another minute, then add minced garlic cook for another 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for another minute. Salt freely the rice tomato, onion and garlic mixture.
Add 4 cups of the hot fish broth or water. Allow to come to a boil. Taste the broth and see if it needs more salt. It should taste a little salty since you will be adding seafood and vegetables. After you are satisfied that it is salted correctly, put on low heat and cover for 10 minutes.
Add another 2 cups of hot fish broth. Nestle the blue crab into the rice and cover for 5 minutes. The broth should always be ¼ inch above the level of the rice. Add up to two cups of broth to do so. It is not necessary for the broth to cover the sea food. Taste the broth. It should be a little salty. Also taste the rice as it should be almost cooked.
Add the rest of the seafood, carrots, and peas. Cover the pan for 5 minutes after the broth comes to a boil again. You may need to add more broth do so. Again, making sure the broth is ¼ inch above the rice. Important: This is a soupy style of dish. It should have liquid as you serve the dish in a bowl. This is not like paella which is much drier.
When the rice is cooked but still al dente, serve in a bowl and sprinkle with cilantro and Serrano chile. Give everyone a wedge of lime to squeeze over the dish.