Paella in Valencia

Paella is certainly our most international traditional dish, it is famous all over the world and an attraction for those gastronomy lovers who visit Valencia.

Paella is certainly our most international traditional dish, it is famous all over the world and an attraction for those gastronomy lovers who visit Valencia.

What is the origin of this dish that is so traditional?

Rice is one of the most ancient crops in our agriculture, as it arrived in Valencia after the Muslim invasion in the 8th century. Thanks to the introduction of new crops such as oranges, aubergines and rice, and the construction of a large system of irrigation channels around the River Turia wich we still use today, Muslim Valencia was believed to be at the time the richest garden in al-Andalus.

When King James of Aragon conquered Valencia five centuries later, he found a rich and fertile land, as the king wrote in the “Llibre del Repartiment” (Distribution Book). which reflects the “repartiment” (distribution) of the conquered lands among the new cristian population.

Nowadays, rice production in Valencia is placed in a protected area just a few kilometers from the city, the Albufera Natural Park. This wetland is home to local species and a resting place for thousands of migratory birds that visit us every year.

The marshy land around the Albufera lake, which is easy to flood, provides the perfect place for growing rice. And it is here where the famous Valencian paella was born.

The locals, farmers and fishermen, had all the ingredients around, and of course the rice. Nowadays, villages such as El Palmar are full of restaurants offering traditional specialities to locals and visitors.

The traditional Valencian paella is always made of chicken and rabbit. The other ingredients are olive oil, green beans, garrofó (a type of local bean), snails, tomato, ground paprika, rosemary, salt and saffron.

It must be definitely cooked in a flat pan with two handles on the sides, also called paella. The result is a type of dry rice with a very thin thickness , and should be slightly toasted at the base, what we call “socarrat”. We love it.

It is important to choose the right type of rice we use for paella . Our rice varieties are short grain, for example bomba rice, which allows for a long cooking time, so the rice picks up the flavors from the rest of the ingredients.

For example, long-grain rice, such as basmati, is not suitable for this kind of dishes, as it is a quick-cooking rice which is often used as an aside ingredient, in spite of that it is usually cooked appart.

Therefore, the secret is to choose a variety able to resist a long cooking time, which allows all the aromas and flavours of the rest of the ingredients to blend.

In addition to the traditional chicken and rabbit paella, in Valencia you can taste many different rice dishes, depending on the area or the time of year.

Other types of paella, or dry rice dishes, are “arroz del senyoret”, with fish and seafood, or vegetable paella, with seasonal vegetables.

Brothy rice dishes such as “arros amb fesols i naps”, with meat and vegetables. Other mellow rices, very tender, made of fish or seafood, vegetables or mushrooms. Or duck paella, very typical in winter, throughout the hunting season.

This typical dish also tells us about the welcoming and festive nature of Valencian people, as the traditional way to enjoy a good paella is to place it in the center of the table, and share it with everyone there eating straight from the pan, if possible, with a wooden spoon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *