Paella is a Valencian rice dish with ancient roots that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near Albufera lagoon on the east coast of Spain adjacent to the city of Valencia. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
Let’s learn some facts about it!
1. Types of paella include Valencian paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), vegetarian/vegan paella, seafood paella, and mixed paella (Spanish: paella mixta), but many other types are known, as well.
2. Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe.
3. It consists of white rice, green beans (bajoqueta and tavella), meat (chicken and rabbit), white beans (garrofón), snails, and seasoning such as saffron and rosemary.
4. Another very common but seasonal ingredient is artichokes.
5. Seafood paella replaces meat with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables.
6. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat from land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans.
7. Most paella chefs use bomba rice due to it being harder to overcook, but Valencians tend to use a slightly stickier (and thus more susceptible to overcooking) variety known as Senia.
8. All types of paellas use olive oil.
9. Paella is a Valencian word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan, as well. Patella is also akin to the modern French poêle, the Italian padella and the Old Spanish padilla.
10. According to tradition in Valencia, paella is cooked over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones. This produces an aromatic smoke which infuses the paella. Also, dinner guests traditionally eat directly out of the paellera.
11. Some recipes call for paella to be covered and left to settle for five to ten minutes after cooking.
12. It has become a custom at mass gatherings in the Valencian Community (festivals, political campaigns, protests, etc.) to prepare enormous paellas, sometimes to win mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. Chefs use gargantuan paelleras for these events.
13. Valencians insist only the original two Valencian recipes are authentic.
14. March 27th is National Paella Day.
15. Valencian restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world’s largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001.
16. This paella fed about 110,000 people according to Galbis’ former website.
17. Typically, the paella pan is brought right to the table, once the meal has finished cooking. It is then set on the table, so that people can eat together directly from the pan.
18. Paella is above all a rice dish, so it is ultimately good rice that makes a good paella.
19. If you don’t have a paella pan, use a medium-weight, non-stick frying pan.
20. It should be shallow and wide to allow moisture to evaporate quickly, and the base shouldn’t be too thick, otherwise the pan will retain too much heat and the food may overcook.
21. A valuable Spanish edict: “Cuantos mas seremos, mas reiremos” which means the more we will be, the more we will laugh.
22. Paella is a community food and associated with fun and fiesta.
23. Sharing paella serves as a generous means of strengthening your connection with folks at work or a community group gathering.
24. Paella is only eaten at lunchtime, never in the evening as it is considered too heavy for dinner.