The first name that comes to your mind is Paella. Undoubtedly, this is the most popular Spanish dish known around the world. In almost every country you can find Paella restaurants claiming they serve the original Paella, including those with their version of this rice-based dish with local ingredients.
Even most houses prepared a version of Paella; also claiming it is the authentic recipe. With all these “original” Paellas worldwide, it is a bit confusing to know what true Paella tastes like.
Let’s discover the real origins of the most iconic Spanish dish, and you can start to boast you have the lowdown on Paella.
How is the original Paella?
Paella was created in Valencia, a coastal region in Spain. It was a workers lunch made of rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, snails, rabbit, chicken, beans, saffron, and any other ingredient they had on hand.
Despite being created by the coast, the original Paella did not contain any seafood. It was a simple meal with strong flavors where taste was as important as sharing a special time while eating. One of the most distinctive aspects of cooking Paella is eating it directly from the pan where it was cooked.
As time passed by, this rice dish started to spread all over Spain, local ingredients and new flavors were added and resulting in the endless Paella versions we all know nowadays:
- Paella Andaluza or Paella mixta (Mixed Paella): This type includes chicken, seafood, vegetables, beans, saffron, garlic, bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.
- Paella Marinera (Seafood Paella): It has mussels, lobster, shrimps, cuttlefish, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and saffron.
- Paella Negra (Black Paella): Rice with prawns, mussels, squid, squid ink, scallops, onion, tomatoes, red bell pepper, and garlic.
- Paella Vegetariana (Vegetarian Paella): A version with rice, onion, tomatoes, garlic, artichokes, pepper, asparagus, mushrooms, olives, and saffron.
The first Paella ever created was Valencian Paella. Other variations are equally delicious, and have the same base for sofrito, but are a variation of the authentic rice dish from Valencia.
Cooking the best Paella
Even though the authentic Paella is the Valencian version, the most famous is the seafood version. Sometimes people confuse Valencian Paella with Seafood Paella. If you want to do them a favor, take them out of this confusion and explain: Valencian Paella does not have seafood in its ingredients.
As Seafood Paella is the most popular type and everybody claims they have the authentic recipe, let´s learn how to cook it using an original Spanish recipe like https://mahatmarice.com/recipes/authentic-spanish-paella-seafood/
But before getting down to work, here you have some useful tips:
- Use Bomba rice or medium-grain rice.
- Do not change the sofrito base: onions, garlic, and bell pepper.
- Use enough spices: saffron, bay leaf, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Cook with olive oil.
- Try to use a Paella pan, if you do not have one, you can substitute it with a big saucepan.
- Try to prepare your own stock.
- Give some love and babysit your Paella until the rice is tender.
- Enjoy sharing this delicious dish.
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1/3 cup of olive oil.
- 1 diced onion.
- 2 minced cloves of garlic.
- 2 diced tomatoes.
- 1/2 teaspoons of sweet paprika.
- 1 pinch of saffron threads.
- 2 large cleaned and sliced squid.
- 2 cups of Bomba rice.
- 3 cups of seafood stock.
- 1 cup of white wine.
- 12 prawns.
- 12 mussels.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Lemon wedges for garnish.
- Parsley leaves for garnish.
- In a saucepan, boil white wine and seafood stock. Add saffron threads and keep it warm.
- In a Paella pan or big saucepan, heat olive oil at a high temperature. Fry prawns for 2 minutes. Take them out of the pan and reserve.
- Incorporate onions and cook until they are translucent.
- Add cloves of garlic, tomatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir very well.
- Incorporate squid, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add rice and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Start adding the warm mixture of white wine and seafood stock to the paella pan.
- Reduce at low heat, and cook rice for 20 minutes.
- Add prawns, on the top, and more stock. Cook covered until prawns are pink
- Cook mussels separately by steaming them until they are open.
- Cook until rice is tender and add more stock if needed.
- Serve with the mussels, lemon wedges, and parsley leaves on the top.