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Paella: A Journey Through History and Flavor


paella

The Dish and Its Origins


Paella is one of the most iconic dishes of Spanish cuisine, originating from the Valencia region in eastern Spain. While there are written records dating back to the 18th century, its origins stretch back even further. Initially, paella was a humble, rural dish prepared by farmers using the ingredients they had on hand. Over time, it gained popularity in cities and festive events, becoming appreciated by the bourgeoisie and aristocracy, who added more sophisticated ingredients such as seafood and exotic spices.


Paella was introduced to a wider audience during the 1920s at the Regional Valencian Exhibition in Madrid. Since then, its fame has transcended borders, becoming a symbol of Spanish cuisine.


Ingredients and Preparation


Authentic Valencian paella is made with specific ingredients: olive oil, water, salt, rosemary, tomato, saffron, paprika, rabbit (or chicken), garrofón (a local legume from Valencia), and green beans. The name "paella" refers to the large, flat pan in which the rice is cooked.


The order in which ingredients are added is crucial for achieving the best result. The meat is fried first, followed by the vegetables, then water and spices are added, and finally, the rice. This process ensures that each component contributes its unique flavor to the final dish.


Variations and Adaptations


Today, paella is known worldwide, with many variations such as seafood paella, mixed paella with meat and seafood, and vegetable paella. However, in Valencia, these versions are not considered the authentic paella and are instead called "rice with things."


Regardless of the variation, it's important to remember that paella is traditionally a midday dish, perfect for sharing in a communal meal.


Fun Facts About Paella


World Paella Day is celebrated on September 20, highlighting its global popularity as the fourth most important dish in the world. Although it originated in Valencia, the name likely comes from Latin, referring to the cooking vessel, which was similar to a pan in its beginnings.


The largest paella in the world was cooked in 1992 in Valencia, with a diameter of 20 meters and feeding 100,000 people. In 2001, another record was set with a 21.5-meter diameter paella in Madrid. Traditionally, paella was eaten directly from the pan with a wooden spoon, symbolizing the joy of sharing a festive meal.


Additionally, paella has its own emoji, highlighting its recognition and appreciation worldwide.


Recommendations for Enjoying Paella in Valencia


If you visit Valencia, there are several places where you can enjoy authentic paella. In the city center, the restaurants around the central market offer excellent paellas at great prices. Near the City of Arts and Sciences, Alqueria del Pou is a gastronomic landmark, along with other “alquerías” serving outstanding paellas.


Other renowned restaurants include Casa Carmela, a reference point in the city, and places like Panorama, La Marítima, and Mimar, which offer unique culinary experiences. Here, you can try classic paellas as well as more unique creations like black rice with cauliflower and cuttlefish or lobster paella.


If you are in Madrid, you can also find excellent paellas and rice dishes at the Berlanga restaurant. Located across from Retiro Park, José Luis García-Berlanga, a passionate foodie, decided to switch his professional career in the audiovisual field for the kitchen, offering an exceptional dining experience.


Discover More with Spain Walking Tours


If you want to learn more about Spanish cities, their typical sites, and their cuisine, we recommend the Spain Walking Tours apps. You’re sure to enjoy this cultural and culinary experience to the fullest!


Paella is more than just a dish; it's a tradition, a celebration, and a testament to Spain's rich culinary heritage. So, whether you're in Valencia, Madrid, or any other city, don't miss the chance to savor this delicious and iconic dish. Enjoy!

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