The Traveling Foodie’s Guide to Spanish Paella

Traditional Spanish Paella

It’s renowned worldwide — Paella. This delectable rice dish hails from Spain’s coastal city Valencia and is savored by Spainards and food enthusiasts globally. The classic Paella is even made in restaurants worldwide far away from Spanish soil. However, be aware; this meal is very specific! If it’s not made the right way, it won’t reach its culinary potential and won’t reflect what a traditional Paella has to offer the taste buds. Depending on the region, Paella can be made with seafood, meat or even just vegetables, meaning it can be easily transformed into a vegetarian- or vegan-friendly feast. 

A Paella is prepared and served inside by a specific pan — a paellera. The diameter of this shallow pan may vary depending on the number of people it will serve. However, the height of the paellera is always the same; roughly 2 inches (5 cm). The large surface and relatively low edge ensure the rice is spread evenly when being cooked on an open fire. From there on, the dish can have many variations. 

 

Paella Valenciana

People worldwide think of Paella as a Spanish dish, but the Spaniards consider Paella to be a Valencian dish. And you won’t find anything more authentic than the Paella Valenciana. It’s made with a base of round grain rice and is commonly combined with green beans, tomatoes, garlic, and rabbit. To get the perfect flavor, it’s seasoned with saffron, paprika powder, rosemary, and salt. It may also be prepared with chicken, duck, or even snails, but of course, aioli will always accompany it on the side. If you happen to find yourself in Madrid and you want the tastiest and most traditional Paellas; go to AlliOli on Calle de Carlos Aniches to have a taste of every kind.

Paella Mixto

Mixed Paella — seafood and meat — is probably what people think of when they think of Paella. This classic variation is very popular in Spain and can be found in many Spanish-themed restaurants around the world. The meat sauce — sofrito — is made with chorizo, chicken, garlic, bell peppers, onions, and olive oil. Then the seafood is added. This could be squid, prawns, shelled mussels or a combination of them. The taste of the meat merges incredibly with the flavors of the sea. Together they soak themselves into the rice and give it a flavor that is so widely appreciated.

Seafood Paella

Especially in the summer, this Mediterranean favorite can be frequently spotted on the tables at beach bars in coastal cities and on the Spanish islands. The seafood Paella is usually prepared with squid, prawns, mussels, clams, and sometimes lobster. This seafood delicacy is served with fresh lemons to squeeze over it, some aioli on the side, and preferably a glass of white wine to complement it all. It’s a summer dish hard to beat. If you’re ever in Ibiza and want a world-class view of the beautiful and mysterious rocky island, Es Vedra, while liking one of the tastiest seafood Paellas, Restaurant El Carmen is the place to be.

Black Paella (Squid Ink)


This exotic type of Paella is mostly found in the regions of Catalonia, Galicia, and Valencia in the north of Spain. This vibrant dish carries names such as Paella Negro or Arroz Negro this rich dish is made is squid ink which is the reasoning for the rice being black. This delectable and unique recipe calls for cuttlefish or squid, rice, prawns, and seasoned with herbs and spices. Don’t let the black rice shy you away from experiencing nontraditional type of Paella. It may look intense, but the taste is pretty mellow

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