We celebrated World Paella Day on September 20, and it’s no ordinary day for Spaniards and culinary enthusiasts across the world. We tell you how to enjoy a slice of this popular international dish and savour a taste of Spain from home!
Akin to the famous flamenco dance of Spain, the culinary offerings of the country, too, glide across one’s palate, swaying between the spice of paprikas and freshness of herbs. Picture tapas, patatas bravas and churros, accompanied by a tall glass of sangria. Despite these multitudinous offerings, a famous dish steals the limelight: paella. Touted as one of the world’s most scrumptious dishes, September 20 is celebrated as World Paella Day every year.
What is paella?
A rice-based dish, paella’s beginnings are just as humble as the dish itself. Believed to have originated as a farmer’s dish in the countryside, the Valencian-origin paellas have now found admirers across societal segments. Translating to ‘frying pan’, the traditional variant of the dish—the paella valenciana—consists of round grain rice; varieties of green beans like bajoqueta and tavella; tomatoes; onions; and meats of rabbits, chickens, and ducks bound together with olive oil and rosemary branches as seasoning.
Over the years, however, its versatility has given rise to many variations. Peas, mussels, avocados, and even pineapples can find a spot in this homely dish today. In fact, over eight million internet searches of the dish have been recorded so far—a proof of its cross-border popularity!
Where did paellas originate?
Its origin can be traced under the cultural blanket that drapes the east coast port city of València. Located on the southeastern coast of Spain, the rice-based dish finds its roots in the rural paddy fields where it once doubled as a lunchtime meal for farmers. Being a region rich with rice, this choice of ingredient came naturally. Over the years, the dish elevated to becoming a food worthy enough for special occasions and festivities, eventually allowing it to transcend beyond the español borders.
What is World Paella Day?
World Paella Day is a day when Valencians share the great dish with the rest of the world to celebrate, beyond recipes and ingredients, the internationality of the paella. This year, the second year of the celebration is going to be a little different, though. Apart from paying homage to the universality of Spanish gastronomy, World Paella Day 2020 also hopes to bring citizens from all around the world together through a plate of paella. After all, not even a global crises can break Spanish spirits!
To celebrate this year, València is organising a competition for paella connoisseurs to win the World Paella Day Cup wherein chefs from across the world will honour the dish in their own unique ways. Think an online debate on Spanish gastronomy in the United Arab Emirates; live cooking show in Italy; gifting paellas to children in Spanish restaurants of Japan; paella-making online courses in the United States of America, and more!
Where to enjoy the best paella in Spain?
Being the birthplace of paella, València is regarded as the ideal place to head to for a paella trail. The ever-bustling space creates this rice dish all day long, the most famous of which can be found at La Pepica, a beachside eatery. Paired with a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean waters, this restaurant has been crafting the dish for over 120 years, mastering the art with each passing year.
Further away from the hustle-bustle is Restaurante Levante, a loved named among locals. Dating back to 1968, the traditional Valencian paella—made using chicken, rabbit and local beans—is the star here. Accentuating the taste further is the large array of Spanish wines available here.
An equally traditional affair can be sought at Casa Roberto, also dating back to 1986. Their expertise lies in offering a typical Valencian atmosphere, particularly through their paellas. Helmed by the expertise of a chef who has been in the business for more than 40 years, when here, a delicious meal seeped in an elegant atmosphere is guaranteed.
The more experimental folk can head to La Riuá, a family-run restaurant. Traditional Valencian Paella aside, the intimate eatery also offers more than 15 other variants to choose from.
How to make your own paella?
Although heading to Spain right now—given the current COVID-19 crises—may not be as feasible as one would like, Chef Manuel Olveira from Mumbai’s La Loca Maria Restaurant gives us a vegetarian version of it to try at home. After all, nothing brings in the true Spanish vibes better than a paella!
Recipe by Chef Manuel Olveira from La Loca Maria Restaurant, Mumbai
- 100 grams Bomba rice
- 200 grams Vegetable stock
- 20 grams broccoli
- 20 grams cauliflower
- 10 grams asparagus
- 10 grams baby eggplant
- 10 grams french beans
- 20 grams green beans
- 20 grams sofrito
- 2 teaspoons garlic
- Olive oil
- Eggless mayonnaise garlic aglio olio
- Salt to taste
- Lemon juice
- Chilli Oil
- Cut the vegetables, blanch and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic. Sauté well.
- Next, add add the vegetables, sofrito and paprika. Sauté well.
- Add saffron and sauté for two minutes.
- Next, add caramelised onion and let it cook on medium-high temperature.
- Add rice to the pan. Mix and sauté thoroughly to infuse the flavour.
- Add pepper, pimiento, chilli powder and fast cook to prevent the rice from losing starch.
- Add vegetable stock and let it come to a boil.
- Next, add green peas and roasted bell peppers, and let it boil for five minutes.
- Transfer the paella to an oven for 13-15 minutes at 190-degrees Celsius.
- Once a crust has formed over the paella, take it out of the oven and garnish with eggless mayonnaise garlic aglio olio, salt, pepper, lemon juice, chopped parsley and chilli oil.
- Serve with lemon wedges on the side.