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Guide to the Perfect Paella Courtesy of Chef Rueben of El Sur, Dubai

Originating from Valencia, Paella remains not only one of Spain’s most popular dishes but has also transitioned the world over, loved by hungry foodies for its versatility and rich flavours.

With few authentic Spanish restaurants in the UAE, El Sur located in The Westin Hotel is one of the best-loved eateries in Dubai and for good reason.

This contemporary Spanish Tapas restaurant is the perfect blend of elegance and casual atmosphere. Whether you choose to sit in the intimate indoor space for a romantic meal for two or to dine al fresco on the spacious terrace, you’ll delight in the dynamic recipes that shine through the innovative menu.

Whilst the traditional tapas dishes are a must try, there is a fantastic paella offering each Saturday afternoon courtesy of the talented chef Ruben Guerrero. We spoke to Chef Ruben on how he makes the ‘perfect paella’ giving those that wish to try to replicate his delicious dish at home a guiding hand. Of course, there’s nothing quite like trying his creations first hand however and we can’t recommend this enough.


1. Chef Ruben, there are few restaurants in the UAE that serve Paella on the menu, why do you think this is? And what makes El Sur different?

Paella is one of most famous dishes in the world, and probably the most recognized dish from Spain. At El Sur, we look for high-quality rice to make the best paella, and we follow tradition by cooking it the authentic way from Valencia.

2. Where did your love of cooking come from?

When I was a child, I started to watch cooking programs on TV. I was always so curious when my Mum was cooking and would stand behind her watching what she did, tasting everything along the way.

3. What one tip could you give for making the perfect paella?

The perfect paella is difficult to make, but we get close due to the main ingredient; passion. We follow the way that I learnt from my mum, using a recipe that she learnt from her mum and so on. Tradition is very important.

Ruben Guerrero

4. Many people struggle to cook paella properly, why do you think this is?

We make it look easy to cook but in reality, it is a form of art. It is not just simply adding all the ingredients together, there are certain steps that we need to follow carefully to make sure it is cooked properly. Traditional methods are very important. I’ve seen paella being made since I was very small and I’m still learning every day, paella after paella how to improve it.

5. What is your favourite variation of the traditional paella dish?

There’s only one paella and it’s paella Valenciana, that’s my favourite and the only real true paella. This is the paella that I learned how to make in Valencia, we call the other varieties by different names (seafood rice, vegetable rice, etc.)

Paella 2

6. Is there a particular wine or beverage that should best be enjoyed in accompaniment to a paella dish?

In our tradition, we make paella on Sundays when with our family and friends, whilst enjoying a beer as the paella is cooking.

7. How would you describe your cooking style?

I don’t really have a definitive cooking style yet, I’m still looking for what I really want, however, I like what I’m cooking here at El Sur. I am keen to keep on learning and I’m always looking to broaden my skills and cooking style.

8. How would you describe El Sur’s approach to Spanish cuisine?

For me, it’s the best and most authentic Spanish restaurant that I have been to outside of Spain. We prepare delicious tapas, some of which have a contemporary twist to make them even better. Visitors to El Sur feel like they are dining in Spain and we are proud of what we serve to our guests.

9. In your opinion, has Spanish cuisine translated properly to the Middle Eastern market?

In my opinion, it is a very close translation. At El Sur, we import the ingredients from Spain in order to get the most authentic flavor.

10.  If you could only eat one dish forever what would that be?

Paella! It would be the paella Valenciana. I’m never going to get tired of cooking and eating it!

And now, El Sur’s Paella master chef gives us his top tips to achieving paella nirvana:


1.   Make the dish with love. It is one that requires attention and time (3 or four hours per paella) and this will show through in the final product

2.  Use bomba rice, good quality chicken and homemade stock made from the other ingredients.Each paella has an individual stock made from frying the meat and vegetables together and adding water, this will give it a greater depth of flavour

3. Stirring is absolutely forbidden, you are aiming for a tender, not creamy result and ensure the consistency is dry

4. The paella should be slightly burnt on the bottom for an authentic flavor, the crisp layer that forms, the ‘socarrat’, is a highly prized delicacy

5. Invest in a good paella pan or skillet, it should be wide, round, shallow and with splayed sides. The key is to maximize the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan which is where all the flavour lives and will also allow for the right distribution of heat.

Final Word: You have to experience Chef Ruben’s paella to really appreciate the complexity and flavour of this world favourite dish. For reservations please contact:

El Sur, Lobby Level The Westin Dubai  04-3997700




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