|Place of origin||Spain|
|Region or state||Valencia|
|Main ingredients||Short grain rice, chicken, rabbit, vegetables, saffron|
Paella is one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine. For this reason, it may be seen internationally as Spain's national dish, but Spaniards almost unanimously consider it to be a dish from the Valencian region; those who live there, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
Paella takes its name from the wide, shallow traditional pan used to cook the dish on an open fire. Paella means "frying pan" in Valencian, Valencia's regional language.
As a dish, it may have ancient roots, but in its modern form it is traced back to the mid-19th century, in the rural area around the Albufera lagoon adjacent to the city of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.
Paella valenciana is the traditional paella of the Valencia region, believed to be the original recipe, and consists of round grain rice, bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, garrofó (a variety of lima or butter bean), and optionally snails. Artichoke hearts and stems may be used as seasonal ingredients. Olive oil is used as a base, and saffron and (sometimes) whole rosemary branches are used as seasoning.
Paella de marisco (seafood paella) replaces meat with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables, while paella mixta (mixed paella) combines meat from livestock, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans, with the traditional rice.
Other popular local variations of paella are cooked all through the Mediterranean area, the rest of Spain and internationally.
Moors in Muslim Spain began rice cultivation around the 10th century. Consequently, eastern Iberian Península locals often made casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family gatherings and religious feasts, thus establishing the custom of eating rice in Spain. This led to rice becoming a staple by the 15th century. Afterwards, it became customary for cooks to combine rice with vegetables, beans, and dry cod, providing an acceptable meal for Lent. Along Spain's eastern coast, rice was predominantly eaten with fish.
Spanish food historian Lourdes March notes that the dish "symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries."
Paella is a Valencian word that means frying pan. The dish gets its name from it. Valencian speakers use the word paella for all pans, including the traditional shallow pan used for cooking the homonym dish. The pan is made out of polished or coated steel with two side handles.
In many regions of Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, the term paellera may be used for the traditional pan, while paella is reserved for the rice dish prepared in it. Both paella and paellera are correct terms for the pan.
The word paella is also related to paila used in many Latin American countries. Paila in Latin American Spanish refers to a variety of cookware resembling metal and clay pans, which are also used for both cooking and serving.
Some claim that the word paella comes from the Arabic , pronounced baqaayya, meaning "leftovers". This claim is based on the 8th-century custom in which Moorish kings' servants would take home the rice, chicken, and vegetables their employers left at the end of the meal. It has been said, however, that a problem with this etymology is that the word paella is not attested until six centuries after Moorish Valencia was conquered by Jaume I.
Originally, paella made in Valencia was a lunchtime meal for farmers and farm laborers. Workers would gather what was available to them around the rice fields. This often included tomatoes, onions, and snails. Rabbit or duck was a common addition, or chicken less often.
On special occasions, 18th century Valencians used calderos to cook rice in the open air of their orchards near lake Albufera. Water vole meat was one of the main ingredients of early paellas, along with eel and butter beans. Novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez described the Valencia custom of eating water voles in Cañas y Barro (1902), a realistic novel about life among the fishermen and peasants near lake Albufera.
Living standards rose with the sociological changes of the late 19th century in Spain, giving rise to gatherings and outings in the countryside. This led to a change in paella's ingredients, as well, using instead rabbit, chicken, duck and sometimes snails. This dish became so popular that in 1840, a local Spanish newspaper first used the word paella to refer to the recipe rather than the pan.
The most widely used, complete ingredient list of this era was: short-grain white rice, chicken, rabbit, snails (optional), duck (optional), butter beans, great northern beans, runner beans, artichoke (a substitute for runner beans in the winter), tomatoes, fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, saffron, garlic (optional), salt, olive oil, and water. Poorer Valencians, however, sometimes used nothing more than snails for meat. Valencians insist that only these ingredients should go into making modern paella valenciana.
On the Mediterranean coast, Valencians used seafood instead of meat and beans to make paella. Valencians regard this recipe as authentic, as well. In this recipe, the seafood is served in the shell. A variant of this is paella del senyoret which uses seafood without shells. Later, however, Spaniards living outside of Valencia combined seafood with meat from land animals and mixed paella was born. This paella is sometimes called preparación barroca (baroque preparation) due to the variety of ingredients and its final presentation.
During the 20th century, paella's popularity spread past Spain's borders. As other cultures set out to make paella, the dish invariably acquired regional influences. Consequently, paella recipes went from being relatively simple to including a wide variety of seafood, meat, sausage (including chorizo), vegetables and many different seasonings. However, the most globally popular recipe is seafood paella.
Throughout non-Valencia Spain, mixed paella is relatively easy to find. Some restaurants both in Spain and abroad that serve this mixed version refer to it as Paella valenciana. However, Valencians insist that only the original two Valencia recipes are authentic, and generally view all others as inferior, not genuine or even grotesque.
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, dining guests traditionally eat directly out of the pan instead of serving in plates.
Some recipes call for paella to be covered and left to settle for five to ten minutes after cooking.
After cooking paella, there may be a layer of roasted rice at the bottom of the pan, called socarrat in Valencià. The layer develops on its own if the paella is cooked over a burner or open fire. This is traditionally considered positive (for as long as it is not scorched) and Valencia natives enjoy eating it.
This recipe is standardized because Valencia originals consider it traditional and very much part of their culture. Rice in paella valenciana is never braised in oil, as pilaf, though the paella made further southwest of Valencia often is.
Some people enjoy garnishing their served plate with freshly squeezed lemon.
There are countless mixed paella recipes. The following method is common to most of these. Seasoning depends greatly on individual preferences and regional influences. However, salt, saffron, and garlic are almost always included.
It has become a custom at mass gatherings in the Valencia region (festivals, political campaigns, protests, etc.) to prepare enormous paellas, sometimes to win a place in the Guinness World Records book. Chefs use gargantuan paelleras for these events.
Valencia restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world's largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001. This paella fed about 110,000 people according to Galbis' former website. Galbis says this paella was even larger than his earlier world-record paella made on 8 March 1992 which fed about 100,000 people. Galbis' record-breaking 1992 paella is listed in Guinness World Records.
Some non-Spanish chefs include chorizo in their paellas along with other ingredients which Valencia people believe do not belong in paella of any type. The alternative name proposed for these dishes, although pejorative, is arroz con cosas ('rice with things'). Famous cases are Jamie Oliver's paella recipe (which included chorizo) and Gordon Ramsay's. The author Josep Pla once noted:
The abuses committed in the name of Paella Valenciana, are excessive - an absolute scandal.-- Josep Pla, Catalan Cuisine, Revised Edition: Vivid Flavors From Spain's Mediterranean Coast
However, in an article for El País, Spanish food writer Ana Vega 'Biscayenne', citing historical references, showed that traditional Valencian paella did indeed include chorizo, exclaiming, "Ah Jamie, we'll have to invite you to the Falles".
In 2015, an emoji for paella was proposed to Unicode. The emoji was approved for Unicode 9.0 as
U+1F958 "SHALLOW PAN OF FOOD" in June 2016. Although it is generally rendered as paella, Samsung has rendered the symbol as a Korean hot pot.
Traditional Valencia cuisine offers recipes similar to paella valenciana and paella de marisco such as arròs negre, arròs al forn, arròs a banda and arròs amb fesols i naps, since rice is the base of lots of local cuisine.
For the Region of Valencia, paella is much more than a recipe, it is a ritual and an icon of our culture.
En el caso de la paella valenciana, se trata de una tradición culinaria y social que constituye un icono de hospitalidad y un símbolo de unión e identidad valencianas ...