• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The Local list
Paella: Six reasons you have probably been doing it wrong
Photo: Jan Harenburg / Wikimedia Commons.

Paella: Six reasons you have probably been doing it wrong

The Local · 19 Jan 2016, 13:45

Published: 19 Jan 2016 13:45 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Jan 2016 13:45 GMT+01:00

The self-proclaimed online "paella police", Wikipaella, presented on Monday their latest list of restaurants that meet their strict paella authenticity standards.

While it's common to see eateries around the country boasting to serve "real" versions of the Valencian rice dish, Wikipaella likes to remind everyone that the "cultural heritage" of the meal is actually often lost in adaptations that artificially colour the rice yellow rather than using the traditional saffron.

This year Wikipaella awarded 262 restaurants with their stamp of approval for serving up authentic paella that respects the tradition. Most, of course are in Valencia province (133), while Alicante has 77, Castellón 33 and 11 in Madrid.

Wikipaella even named one restaurant in the United States and one in Germany as demonstrating "the international character of our most popular dish".

So how do you know if you've been duped by paella? The Local looks at some of the easiest ways to tell that your paella is subpar.

1. It has extra ingredients

According to Wikipaella, there are three types of paella - paella Valenciana, arroz a banda (or senyoret) and paella with rabbit and snails (paella de conejo y caracoles).

Each have slightly different variations in their ingredients, but the main traditional ingredients are the same: rice, extra virgin olive oil, saffron and tomato. 

Arroz a banda has seafood, which includes cuttlefish, shrimp and angler fish as the most frequently used ingredients. Less common is squid or mussels.

Paella Valenciana has chicken, rabbit and often snails or duck. Pork ribs and meatballs are not used as frequently but still get the OK from Wikipaella.

The site recognizes that there are always regional and seasonal differences among recipes, such as adding artichokes, but there are definite no-nos. If your paella has carrots, mushrooms or chorizo, you are being duped.

Wikipaella intends to honour places that stay true to tradition rather than experimentation.

2. It is not cooked over a fire in a wide shallow pan


Photo: Jan Harenburg / Wikimedia Commons.

Unless you see somewhere on site that a large, wide, shallow pan is being heated over a fire with the ingredients inside, you're not getting the real deal.

The word "paella" actually is used in Valencia to describe the special steel pan for cooking the dish. The traditional preparation involves cooking the rice, vegetables and meat together over a heat source like hot coals, though Wikipaella gives special awards to those who use firewood. 

Just 48 of the 262 restaurants this year were distinguished for doing so.

3. It is served in an individual portion


Photo: STR/AFP. 

The recipes recommended by Wikipaella are all for large batches, serving four people. The site says that true paella should be able to be eaten "directly from the pan with a wooden spoon", implying a sharing culture.

So this isn't meant to be a solitary meal - be skeptical if a restaurant seems to just be serving up individually prepared plates rather than steaming hot pans. That single dollop is probably not fresh.

4. You have it for dinner


People eat paella in Ibiza. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP.

As previously mentioned, Valencia as the birthplace of the famous rice dish has the vast majority of traditional restaurants. But arroz a banda can be found in restaurants across Spain, especially touristy coastal areas.

A full list of the eateries deemed top-quality can be found on Wikipaella's website here.

But don't forget that paella is served in the afternoon during lunchtime - it shouldn't be a dinner menu item. Locals know better.
Story continues below…

5. It is not fresh

Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP.

The ingredients for paella are supposed to be fresh and Wikipaella likes to highlight the places that pluck their own vegetables right from the garden.

So, no - those frozen dinner versions found in supermarkets should not be able to call themselves paella. Don't even bother.

6. It isn't made by someone who "carries paella in their hearts"


Photo: Cesar Rangel/AFP.

In order to get the thumbs-up from the Wikipaella deciders, the chefs must commit to its mission and promise to "carry paella in our hearts, and travel with it as far as we can".

So that's the main question to ask yourself: Does this restaurant really care about the centuries-old tradition of paella? Or are they just trying to get tourists and non-natives in the door? 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Christmas Day elections loom as opposition blocks govt deal
Rajoy has not got the support he needs to form a government. Photo: AFP

Spain could be heading for the polls on Christmas Day if Mariano Rajoy fails to win a confidence vote in Parliament today.

The ten commandments for expats living in Spain
Sometimes you just need to throw yourself into the local culture. Photo: AFP

Irish expat Carol Byrne outlines the ten golden rules you will need to follow to be a happy expat in Spain.

Madrid LGBT group takes action over ‘gay cure therapy’
Madrid introduced anti-homophobic laws earlier this month. Photo: AFP

A Spanish pressure group that fights against homophobia has filed a complaint against a therapist who offers “to cure homosexuality”.

Expat Spain: Warm, friendly and brilliant for family life
Spain is one of the best nations for expats. Photo: theinterngroup.com/ Flickr

A great climate and friendly locals make up for the lack of career opportunities in Spain, according to a survey ranking the quality of life for expats around the world.

La Tomatina: Everything you need to know about epic fiesta

Every year on the last Wednesday in August the town of Buñol prepares to get seriously messy when it stages what has become the world's biggest food fight.

Costa del Sol beach closed over shark fears
The Civil Guard patrolled the beach looking for the shark. Photo: Pedrator_desert/ Twitter

Thought jellyfish were a nuisance? Fuengirola just got a lot scarier.

The Local List
15 amazing Unesco World Heritage sites to visit in Spain
The town of Ávila. Photo: Chroniron/Wikimedia Commons.

Spain has an impressive 45 locations listed as Unesco World Heritage sites for their cultural significance or natural beauty, including some that are entire towns. Here's a look at some of the most stunning.

Rajoy says forming new government ‘a wish’
Spain has been subject to a political deadlock for the past eight months. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP file picture

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned Saturday ahead of parliament's confidence vote for a second term in office that the formation of a new government remained "more of a wish".

Spanish police smash Chinese immigration ring
The Chinese nationals paid the ring about €8,000 to get a fake work contract. Photo: Cristina Quicler /AFP

Spanish police said Saturday they had smashed a major ring allegedly providing Chinese nationals living illegally in the country with fake contracts as domestic staff so they could get residency permits.

Gallery
10 super Spanish drinks everyone should try
Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr

While we've all been tempted by the Spanish holiday classic of a chilled glass of sangria, Spain has much more to offer when it comes to tantalizing tipples.

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Shocking video shows torture of young calf during fiesta
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Police launch appeal for Costa Blanca hit and run driver
Politics
What political deadlock? Spain economy forges ahead
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Features
Eight reasons to spend your gap year exploring Spain
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
International
'We won't ban burqinis on our beaches' insists Barcelona
National
British dad drowns saving daughter on red flagged beach
National
11 Spanish words that English must adopt right now
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Justin Bieber just bought an amazing new pad in Lanzarote
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Recipe: How to make Andalusian Ajo Blanco soup
Travel
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Travel
Ten touristy types you'll meet in Spain: Which one are you?
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Ten top tips to avoid looking like a guiri when in Spain
International
Don't miss this spectacular meteor shower over Spain
Travel
Desperate Ryanair passenger chases after missed flight
Travel
What's on in Spain: August 2016
National
Get your kit off! Spain's ten best nudist beaches
National
German firestarter blames blaze on 'toilet paper mishap'
National
Flashmob prank sparks 'terror attack' panic in Spanish resort
Culture
Croquemon Go: Spain invents twist on game to 'eat 'em all'
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
National
Spanish parents fight for right to name their son 'Wolf'
National
Beach closed after shark attack in southern Spain
National
Spain ups security at tourist spots as terrorism fears grow
3,239
jobs available