Paella is a dish that every person who goes to Spain should try. It is forgivable to skip this experience only if you hate rice or have allergies. Otherwise, it is highly recommendable to taste it. Let’s figure out what is paella

what-is-paella

Let’s go a little bit through the history of this dish. However, if you are in a hurry – you can scroll down to see where you can try this authentic food.

1. What Is Paella?

It is a typical Spanish dish, which came from Valencia. Made of rice, meat or seafood and vegetables. Every Valencian family has its own special recipe and it can slightly vary from region to region. All Valencians without exceptions when coming to other Spanish regions and trying this dish always “complaining” in kind-of joke way that it is the wrong paella and the right one is only in Valencia.

A bit of History or from what did it all start

Everything starts somewhere in the rural areas of Valencia near lake Albufera between the 15th and 16th centuries. Albufera has been one of the biggest producers of rice in Spain. Because farmers and field workers needed easy and quick to prepare lunch. With the ingredients, they had on hand in the countryside. The original recipe contains chicken, duck or other birds meat, rabbit, fresh vegetables, rice, paprika, saffron and olive oil. All that they were mixing with the water and slowly cooking on the fire with orange branches firewood to give a flavour and a characteristic smell to the dish. By the way, “la paella” the same time is the name for the dish and name for cooking pan itself. As a result, it creates some misunderstandings.

spanish food paella

This is how it was born. As a result, during centuries people were modifying, improving and perfecting the recipe. As a result, it became one of the most popular dishes in Spanish cuisine. Because of this long history, the authentic recipe isn’t so clear.

Indeed, The Word Paella day celebrates in Valencia starting from September 2018. Now it is also in the process to be nominated as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in UNESCO.

Curious Fact
One of the theories about origins of the name “paella” says that this dish was cooked by man for his beloved fiancée, because in Spanish “pa ella” means “for her”.🥰 Well, for sure it is a myth but curious fact is that although many women in Spain traditionally do cook for their families, cooking paella is usually men’s responsibility. Traditionally the paella has been eaten from the same “paella” (container) in which it was cooked..

2. Types of Paella

We talk about one of those dishes that virtually admits any ingredient. There is no recipe that unifies the wide variety of possibilities of this dish. However, we can mark the most common and popular types.

  • Valenciana (Typical Valencian paella) – the most traditional one, with rice, rabbit, chicken, green beans, garrofón (a type of greenish legume), tomato, olive oil, water and of course saffron.
  • De Carne (Meat) – The same as Valencian one, but the rabbit is usually replaced by chicken.
  • Mixta (Mixed) – Here the seafood is mixed with the meat. Some people say that it is an invention that should not be called paella, but, on the other hand, it is one of the best-known types of this dish outside Spain.
  • “De marisco” or “del Senyoret” (seafood) – after the meat one, it is the second most-consumed type of paella in the country. The main ingredients are seafood – prawns, mussels, sepia, clams, squid, crayfish, monkfish and other seafood. “De marisco” and “De Senyoret” are both seafood paellas. The difference is that in paella “Del Senyoret” you don’t need to peel and deshell the seafood.
  • Negra (black) – This seafood paella became very popular in Galicia, characterized by its black colour, which is due to squid or octopus ink. This ingredient gives a strong flavour.
  • Vegetal (vegetarian, or just with vegetables) – Rice with the different vegetable that would definitely like not only by vegetarians.
  • De Bogavante  – Seafood paella with lobster. A very tasty option for seafood lovers.
Curious Fact
One story says that during the Spanish War of Independence with France, one Valencian woman made paella for one French general. He was so impressed by the taste of this dish and they made a deal: for each new plate of rice, the general would release a Spanish prisoner. The woman launched her imagination and a great capacity for improvisation and every day she made a different paella. This way she managed to release 176 prisoners.

3. Where to eat the best paella in Valencia?

As local people say, to try the best Valencian paella you should go far away from tourist areas and visit the place where the story of paella began – small fishermen village next to lake Albufera – El Palmar.

Sure, you can easily find paella in every second bar and restaurant in the city centre near to the cathedral. But the problem comes when you try it, because the paella served in the touristic areas, unfortunately, isn’t the best option.

Usually, it is recommended to take a day trip to Albufera and eat it there for the lanch. However, if you are limited in time, or just don’t want to go outside of the city, you still have a chance to try well-done dish. Here you have a list of restaurants that we personally consider good ones:

La Cirgona

A restaurant in the old city centre, near to Torres Serranos. One of the few where they cook normal rise and paellas.

Bar Almudin

An authentic place in the heart of Old town but out of the crowded streets. the wonderful secret little gem of a fab place to eat

La Riua

A huge choice of rice dishes and a very cosy atmosphere.

Lavoe Arroz y Mar

A little pricy but good restaurant to try paella.

Better to book a table in advance! Because many people like to eat paella! And also don’t forget to invite friends with you, as paella always serves at least for 2 people!