Zarzuela, The Cuisine Version

imageBefore Hollywood films and Broadway musicals were introduced in the Philippines, there was a performing art form that dominated the cultural scene.  It’s called “zarzuela,” which later became to be known among locals as “sarsuwela.”

Zarzuela is a play with spoken word, music and dance, deriving its name from the Palacio de Zarzuela near Madrid, Spain, where this form of entertainment was presented for the royal families. It was introduced in the Philippines in the 19th century.

Perhaps the most famous of Philippine zarzuelas was “Walang Sugat” (No Wounds), a play set in the Northern Luzon province of Bulacan during the Philippine revolution.  The play tackled the bravery and dedication of Filipino revolutionaries during the later years of Spanish occupation.  It was written by Severino Reyes and first staged in 1902 by a theater company he founded.

Scene from the Filipino sarsuwela, "Walang Sugat."

Scene from the Filipino sarsuwela, “Walang Sugat.”

In Barcelona, there is a different kind of zarzuela, popular in the local cuisine of this fascinating Spanish city in Catalonia.  Just like its performance art form counterpart, zarzuela the dish is a mosaic of ingredients – different kinds of seafood, rice, vegetables, fruits, juice and spices, much like the arroz valenciana or the paella.

While the performance zarzuela has become a rarity, the dish zarzuela has gained popularity not only in Barcelona but in many cuisine centers the world over.


1/2 lb fresh clams

12  pcs mussels

12 pcs large fresh shrimp (head and tail on)

1/2 lb  fillet of firm fish like cod or tilapia, sliced into bite-sized pieces

1/4 lb medium scallops

1 cup rice

1 large onion, chopped

2 large tomatoes, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

2  cups clam juice

4 cups water

1/3 cup red wine

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsps Olive oil

1 pc avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced

2 tbsps sour cream

1 lime or lemon, sliced into wedges


Boil 1 cup water in a large sauce pan. Add fresh clams and mussels until their shells open up before transferring them to separate bowls. Remove clams from shells, but keep mussels intact in half shells. Set aside.  Using the same boiling water in the sauce pan, cook the fresh shrimps just until they turn orange. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.  Peel about 8 of the shrimp, removing heads and tails, while leaving the rest intact with their shells. In a large wok, bring 1 cup water to a boil and cook the fish fillet and scallops until they become tender but not overcooked.  Drain and set aside.  In the same large wok, heat the Olive oil in medium-high heat.  Saute the garlic until golden brown.  Add onions and cook until tender.  Stir in rice and parsley until rice turns golden brown. Add tomatoes, 2 cups water, clam juice and red wine.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add all the seafood and 1/4 cup cilantro, cover and cook in low heat for 8-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a serving bowl or paella pan, arranging the unpeeled shrimp in the center of the dish. Top with avocado slices, sour cream, and garnish with the rest of the cilantro.  Serve with lime or lemon wedges.


2 thoughts on “Zarzuela, The Cuisine Version

  1. I’m amazed! This absolutely is a good quality piece of writing you have compiled. Thank you for finding the time to study your particulars and examine the topics you’ve displayed. I am supposed to republish this weblog with my users, and I’ve subscribed to your feed to make sure that Im in a position to keep on being current on your industry. Ive tremendously valued seeing the material you blogged tonight, and Im looking forward to significantly more soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s