Valencia is the third largest city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. In addition to being famous for its historic old town market, delicious food, gorgeous beaches, and warm city life, it’s also a city that is home to one of the world’s most renowned food items: paella.
The local Valencian Spanish language “paella” refers to the large, shallow pan with handles inside which it is prepared rice, but typically in forms that cause Valencianos to weep.
The food is more than food; however, an official from Visit Valencia, the city’s tourism agency, says, “Paella is to Valencia what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.”
You will soon begin to comprehend why the Valencians are proud of and devoted to the food in Valencia. I have a taxi driver ask me at the airport – which is always the best place to start for suggestions on places to take a meal in a city and he will rattle off the details of the three Paella restaurants and go into great detail on how each is distinct.
A traditional Valencian paella including Herradura, butter beans, legumes, rabbit, and chicken at the popular Valencia paella establishment Palace Fesol.
This wasn’t my first trip to Valencia because my parents lived there. I can remember being amazed in a restaurant as I realized that staring back at me from within paella was a rabbit’s skull. What I didn’t know then and now do is that it’s a symbol of genuine Valencian paella.
In the past, numerous variations of paella have been taken up by experts in paella for denying the Valencian tradition. The moment Jamie Oliver published a recipe for paella that included carrots, garlic, and parsley, “Paellagate” ensued.
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A popular tweet compared Oliver’s rendition to “Monkey Christ,” the famous restoration of a famous Spanish Church fresco.
Valencia’s most renowned culinary son, Quique Dacosta – his named restaurant is home to the distinction of having three Michelin three-stars and has called for paella to be granted the status of an intangible cultural treasure by Unesco. AA non-profit organization Wikipaella was created to protect the traditional paella dish, give out prizes, and provide authentic paella recipes.
Paella began as a food intended for farmers who were poor and was made with ingredients they could easily find access to. It was first cooked around 400 years ago, in and close to the Albufera lagoon, located 15 miles (24km) south of Valencia. Today, the region is still amid numerous rice paddies.
One of the most popular tweets compared Jamie Oliver’s desecration of paella “Monkey Christ,” the famous restoration of the fresco.
Rice was first introduced in Spain in the 10th century from North Africa. It has been speculated that the word “paella” comes from baqaayya, the Arabic word used to describe leftovers. Another essential element, saffron, was introduced into Spain by Muslims of Arab or Berber descent.
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The round-grain rice varieties used in paella are bomba, senia, or albufera. Alongside saffron. The only other ingredients in a genuine Valencian paella are olive oil, water salt, tomatoes, flat Herradura green beans, butter rabbit, beans, and chicken.
Paellas were cooked by farm workers on open fires and were typically cooked with wood from orange trees that still cover the area. A few traditional eateries in Valencia still practice this technique.
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The most important part of making the paella is leaving it in its juices; stirring it can be akin to making the most sinful act. When you do this, you break the grains, release starch, and hinder the process of creating the caramelized crust of rice, the highly desired socarrat, which means burned to burn in Valencian. As one Valencian food writer exclaimed: “It’s not a risotto!”
The purists will insist on one more thing to experience the best Paella Valenciana – eating it with a spoon made of olive wood.
Currently, most paellas available are a million miles away from the traditional. Squid and seafood ink varieties are everywhere, and snails, paprika, and artichokes are often included in paellas from the local area.
Men dressed in traditional costumes carry paella pans during the Moors and Christians Festival, held in Bocairent, located in Valencia province, every February. Photo: Getty Images
If you do decide to find authentic paella in its native city in the UK, you should know paella is a lunch dish that is typically eaten on Sundays. Like the classic traditional roast dinner at home in the UK, paella is a word that requires a lot of time to cook and is generally served in the context of a family gathering.
This is why many authentic paella eateries in Valencia are closed until late evening – that is, tourists only dine on paella. To eat dinner. (My first experience with paella was at 7 pm when most Spanish were finishing their lunch and not even contemplating dinner. It was not the traditional.)
The location on El Cabanyal, Valencia’s main boardwalk and beach, has the Miami Beach style due to its variety of bars that feature live salsa music and numerous amateur dancers and those strolling along through the boardwalk before dinner. Stroll.
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The stretch is also home to several famous paella restaurants in the city, such as La Pepica – – a location that Ernest Hemingway and other friends frequented during their trips for bullfights in the nearby arenas.
The author’s endorsement has resulted in the restaurant becoming a major attraction for tourists, and there is an incredibly long wait to enter the restaurant. Instead, I take just a few steps towards El Tridente. Because of its position, which is around 100m (330ft) away from the warm water of the Mediterranean, and Miguel Verdu’s status as a master of the sea and a master of seafood, the swaying call of the paella mariscos was awe-inspiring.