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Paella – typical Spanish meal

Paella is one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine. For this reason, many non-Spaniards view it as Spain’s national dish, but Spaniards almost unanimously consider it to be a dish from the Valencian region. Valencians, 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.

The rice

Southern Spain and its region are not much different from other Mediterranean regions with their gastronomy. But there is one difference. It is said that the local inhabitants are great masters in the preparation of vegetables and rice. It became part of the diet in Spain in the 8th century and two centuries later it was grown in the south of Spain. Today, Spain is the second largest producer of rice in the European Union, the first being Italy.

Rice is the basis of paella, a mixture of rice, meat, vegetables and spices, offered by every local restaurant. Paella is a typical Spanish meal similar to risotto or pilau. In addition to rice, another typical raw material is rabbit and fish meat, seafood and beans. Of course there is the ubiquitous tapas and delicious wine.

Paella valenciana

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 and garrofó (a variety of lima or butter bean) cooked in olive oil and chicken broth. The dish is (sometimes) seasoned with whole rosemary branches. Traditionally, the yellow color comes from saffron, but turmeric and calendula can be used as substitutes. Artichoke hearts and stems may be used as seasonal ingredients.

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.