Paella from Valencia. The gift to the world

Paella, the dish is widely assumed to be the national symbol of Spain, and as such, many vacationers coming to Spain seek out this national treasure. What they usually get instead is a horrible, badly made “tourist” version of this really delicious dish that is unforgettable when cooked the right way. Here is what to know about the paella Valencia and its origin.

Paella From Valencia. The Gift To The World:

Valencia and Paella. Godess mural of lady with big books and pink flowy dress on paella pan
One of the murals in the old center of Valencia with this goddess of paella?

Valencians consider paella the symbol of Valencia, while other Spaniards simply consider it a dish from the region. Whatever it may be, it has become known worldwide as the Spanish national dish.

Paella History in Valencia:

Rice cultivation in the region started during the Moorish rule in the 10th century. Many natives from then on started incorporating rice into their meals. Casseroles with fish and rice etc. started popping up at family get-togethers and rice became a staple. Five centuries later, it had become traditional to have rice dishes (made with vegetables and dried cod) during Lent.


What does paella mean?

In the Valencian and Catalan languages, paella means frying pan. Any shallow pan for cooking in these parts is referred to as a paella. The actual one used specifically for paella is often referred to as a paellera by locals, but for the rest of the world, the names are synonymous.

A great paella pan is sturdy and made of coated steel. A wooden spoon is used to cook.

sturdy paella pans
The traditional way of making paella from valencia with good sturdy pans.

Paella Valenciana: When was paella invented?

Paella originated in the Albufera area of Valencia in the mid 19th century. It actually started out as a definite poor man’s meal. Paella was a humble dish by field workers in order to have a sustaining meal to hold them through long hours in the field.

The meal would be prepared by mixing the short-grain rice that was cultivated in the area with tomatoes, snails, beans, rice, rabbits, or duck, or the occasional chicken (whatever was within their sights, even water voles).

This rice dish would then be cooked on an open fire made of orange and pine branches. The big size of the paella pans allowed many people to share from the same paella.

What to know about paella Valencia style:

Purists will assure you that the traditional paella should have only chicken, rabbit and, or snails as the meat. The true Valencian paella should never be braised in oil (seared at high heat, then covered like in a pot roast).

some ingredients for making paella, oil, artichokes, beans tomatoes and paprika.
Some of the needed ingredients for making awesome paella the traditional Valencia way.

Paella Ingredients:

In addition to the short-grain rice, rabbit, chicken, and the optional duck and snail, the other paella ingredients are butter beans, tomatoes, fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, saffron, garlic (also optional), salt, olive oil, and water.

A good paella that is cooked well should have a socarrat on the bottom. This is an almost caramelized roasted rice layer that happens naturally when the paella is cooked on an open fire or burner. It is a local favorite and some consider it the best part of the paella.

What time of day is paella eaten?

Paella is most often eaten for lunch. Very few locals will eat it at dinner time because it is considered a heavy meal that needs time to digest. Most restaurants will only typically serve it for lunch. Some, however, will serve it for dinner in the tourist areas.

Families will still gather around the paella and forgo individual dishes. The family-style traditional way of eating eating paella is still the best way to enjoy the meal.

Paella belongs to the world:

Seafood paella in a big pan.
Seafood paella is very popular in Spain, maybe even more so than the Valenciano paella.

The popularity of paella has blossomed across the world and there are so many variations of it. In Spain, there is the very popular seafood paella which substitutes mussels, shrimp, lobster in a seafood broth.

There is also the mixed paella which uses seafood without shells and bell peppers amongst other things.

When Is National Paella Day?:

I bet you didn’t know there was a national day for this what has become a proud symbol of Spain. National paella day is on March 27. It’s a day where people are encouraged to try their hand at making paella and sharing with friends. Food is always a good excuse to socialize.

 Traditional paella with rabbit and chicken
A traditional paella from Valencia with chicken and rabbit.

What to watch out for when looking for good paella:


◼︎Paella is a dish that takes time to prepare, and so you should be prepared to wait for your food if you are a walk-in. A lot of restaurants, however, will allow you to call ahead and order your paella beforehand, so try that.

◼︎Run, don’t walk if you find restaurants with single-serving pans of paella. It’s more than likely frozen and reheated. Most authentic places will serve a minimum of two people. That’s just the way it is.

◼︎Check out the simple-looking restaurants, not the ones with the giant signs and people trying to usher you in to try the “world-famous paella”. Most locals eat at the simple places with good food and ones that have a great reputation. Have a look at the clientele seated. Always a good sign when you see locals seated.

◼︎Eat the socarrat. It is very delicious. My favorite way to eat it is to mix some with the rest of the dish and save a bit to eat by itself. sublime. Paella from Valencia or wherever just made sure it’s good.

Paella from valencia and beyond. Seafood paella
Just one of the many variations of paella that you can have.

Paella en Valencia. Where to find the best paella in Valencia.

Here are two places located in Valencia that locals and ex-pats alike agree are the best places to try this regional dish. Make sure to make a reservation as they tend to get very busy, and people linger over lunch. It’s safe to say you won’t be disappointed with either place.

Restaurante Casa Carmela:

Located on the doorstep of the Malvarrosa beach, Casa Carmela has been cooking paella the traditional way since 1922.

Carrer d’Isabel de Villena, 155.
46011 Valencia.

Restaurante Levante :

Located along the Turia, close to the Bioparc. Please note that this restaurant is only open for lunch.

Av.de Manuel de Falla 12, 46015 Valencia.

There are of course many places to try paella in the city, and you should be in good hands using the tips above to find a good place to eat. In addition to paella, the city is continuously growing in the offerings of international cuisine, and of course pizza.

paella with tradiitonal and woman flying in paella pan.

Have you ever tried paella? If not, will you be making some come national paella day?