Seeking the right Paella can be easy with this guide. Read on!
Often coming to mind when thinking of Spanish cuisine, Paella (pronounced “pah-eh-ya” – the ‘ll’ is pronounced as a ‘y’) is a dish with roots in the Valencia region of eastern Spain. Today it is made in every region in Spain and can have as many variations as people who want to cook it.
Historically, paella was a laborers’ meal. Eaten in the fields while working, it was cooked over an open flame and whatever could be found was added. Chicken, rabbit, duck, and snails were easiest to find in this region and therefore most commonly used during this time. It was eaten directly from the pans with wooden spoons.
Paella is a staple food because it can be cooked in large quantities and keeps well to be eaten later on. Making this dish is a laborious task so large quantities make for lots of enjoyment after long periods of work is put in.
In order to create good paella three things must be in order:
- Cook over an open fire, barbeque grill, or gas paella burner. This allows for even distribution of heat and that the heat is gradually decreased during the cooking process. The fire must be very hot at first to brown the meat and lower later on to simmer the rice.
- Cook in a paella pan, which is a flat, open, rounded steel pan with handles.
- Medium grain rice is a must as opposed to longer grain rice. The medium grain absorbs water the best making it perfectly suitable for paella.
Paella to Suit Every Taste
- Traditional Paella Valenciana is known to many as paella in its truest form. This type includes ingredients like rabbit, chicken, and snails, as well as beans and artichoke.
- Paella Mixta contains a mix of seafood and meat and is most popular overseas and with visitors to Spain.
- Paella Vegetariana is the version for those who don’t enjoy eating meat. It typically contains white beans, artichoke, green pepper, and eggplant.
Paella can be found all over Spain in several touristy locations, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the best places to get paella in Spain is Valencia, its true home. Many people travel to this region just to get an authentic paella experience including other Spaniards. As more people come looking for paella, more restaurants open up. Many of the restaurants found will be touristy, as local Valencians eat paella their own way at home.
The nearby village of El Palmar, the place where paella rice is grown, is also one of the best places to get the dish. Even Valencians find themselves there. Avoid chain restaurants when trying to get good paella. Their version is usually frozen and not created fresh. Plan to eat with two or more people because this dish is large and is best served to large groups.
Photo Credit: mccun934