Facts and History of Paella in Spain
Paella is one of the most iconic dishes from Spain. Made of rice cooked in a shallow pan with two side handles, no tourist will leave Spain without ordering it. Spanish people also eat it regularly in all its different varieties: the most famous is the seafood version, but we’ll discuss some more below.
It can take several hours to prepare Spanish paella from scratch, but in a restaurant you’ll only be made to wait around 20 minutes. That’s because they they have the base of the dish ready, so you only need to wait for the rice to get cooked. Spaniards usually order a light starter (salad or some tapas) to munch while they wait. And beware: if they bring your paella in less than 20 minutes… it’s frozen rather than freshly maid!
If you are coming to Barcelona, we have an older post on our favorite paella restaurants. In the meantime, let’s get to know more about what paella means for Spain!
Facts and history of paella you need to know about:
The paella origins:
The word paella means pan in Valencian Catalan. In Spanish the pan used for paella is actually called “paellera”. The word could have multiple origins: the Latin term “patella” would be the most accepted. Another possibility would be the Arabic word “baqiya”, that means left overs – a reference to the humble ingredients of the dish. And since it was the Arabic who promoted rice in Spain in the early Middle Ages, this option can’t be discarded.
Finally, there’s a popular myth in Valencia that says that a man created the dish for the maiden he was in love with. So the dish was “for her”, “Pa ella”. Probably not the real origin of the dish, but it’s a cute story. And it’s true that paella is a dish mostly cooked by men in Spain.
Other types of paella
Paella marinera is the seafood paella any non-Valencian person thinks of when talking about paella. It lacks of veggies and meat, and incorporates squid, calamari, lobster or shrimp, clams and mussels. Paella mixta is another popular version, a mix of seafood with meat (often pork and chicken), plus onion and green peas. Paella Parellada or Paella del Senyoret is a “cleaner” version of paella mixta where the seafood comes shelled. The origin may come from the early 1900’s when a dandy called Juli Mari Parellada asked his waiter to bring a paella that was easier to eat. Vegetarian paellas aren’t rare either. You might also be interested in other rice dishes from Spain.
When is paella eaten
As you can see, paella has become an iconic recipe of Spain and a symbol of the region of Valencia. There’s even an emoticon for it! (that had to be redesigned a few times due to the complaints of some purists…). There are societies, contests and festivals devoted to it, and it should be a keystone of your next trip to Spain.
What paella type would you like to try?
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