No one could disagree that some countries are known for a handful of their typical meals. The fact is that food reunites all the feelings, ways of life, flavors, and colors of their people. So, the best way to get closer to countries´ cultures and traditions is by tasting their traditional dishes.
When thinking in Italy you imagine a creamy risotto, in Mexico, you think of red rice, and Spain immediately reminds you of a delightful Paella. Let’s stop a bit here; what do all these dishes have in common, besides their exquisite taste? In all of them the key ingredient is rice.
There is no surprise there because rice is so versatile that almost every country in the world uses it in their meals. Some of their traditional dishes are made with this mild grain too. The reason is that rice is a blank component that allows people to pair it with any other ingredients, absorbing their flavors keeping a tender texture.
Now you know why some traditional dishes of certain countries have rice on them. What about their origins? Have you ever wondered, for instance, about the history of the most popular dishes like La Paella?
Tracing back the birth of the Paella
Like other emblematic dishes, when searching for its origins, countless theories are found. Some of them are created by people’s stories transmitted over generations. There even are theories easily tracked in documents.
The history of this typical dish belongs to the part of the population’s storytelling. Spanish people defend that Paella has been created on the eastern coast of the Valencia province. According to these stories, Paella was created by the farmworkers and laborers for lunchtime. They put together rice with all the ingredients they had on hand. They cooked it in a big frying pan over a large fire made burning orange-tree wood. Once it was ready, they all took a portion straight from the pan and ate together at the fireside.
Its spread to all Spanish regions began when some people started to travel to the Valencia coast, took back home this delicious meal and replicated it. Its way all over the world is only explained by the exquisite flavor of Paella that earned its place in most popular rice dishes.
Another theory states that Paella is a Moorish dish adapted with Spanish flavors. History said that servant moors in the noble houses took the leftovers of their masters’ meals and cooked them with rice. When Moors arrived in Spain, they brought rice and this way of cooking it. As rice crops started to be cultivated in this part of Spain, some of Moors’ dishes were also adopted and adapted with regional flavors creating their own Paella recipe.
Origin by its name
Some people relate Paella’s origin with its name. The word Paella is believed to be closely related to the utensil used to cook it. The pan is called paellera or paella pan, which is a special round pan with a flat bottom full of dimples. The dimples help to keep small amounts of liquid that allow even cooking.
Some other people state that the name Paella came from baqiyah, an Arabic term for left-overs, referring to the way servants cook first rice dishes.
Cooking the best traditional Paella
So you know where to place the origin of this famous Spanish dish. But this is not enough; the best part of knowing everything about a dish is trying it.
Ingredients (8 servings)
- 4 cups of medium-grain white rice.
- 8 cups of water.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 lb of chicken cut into pieces.
- 2 lb of rabbit cut into pieces.
- 10 cloves of garlic.
- 1 finely chopped tomato.
- 1 can of butter beans.
- ½ package of frozen green peas.
- Salt to taste.
- 1 teaspoon of paprika.
- 1 pinch of saffron threads.
- 1 pinch of dried thyme.
- 1 pinch of dried rosemary.
- In a paella pan, pour olive oil and cook at medium-high heat. Add chicken, rabbit and cloves of garlic. Stir very well. Cook until the meat is browned.
- Incorporate tomato, butter beans, green peas, paprika, and salt. Combine all ingredients.
- Pour water and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Add saffron threads, dried thyme and dried rosemary. Mix very well.
- Incorporate rice and cook at low heat.
- Cover the pan with a lid, and simmer until water is absorbed.
- Enjoy it the traditional way: the paella pan should be placed in the middle of the table and diners serve it by themselves.