Five things you probably didn’t know about Spanish paella

As today is world paella day, we’ve put together some surprising facts about Spanish paellas that you probably didn’t know before.  

Five things you probably didn't know about Spanish paella
World Paella Day September 20th. Photo: malubeng / Pixabay

The original paellas were not made with seafood

While paella de marisco (seafood paellas) is probably the most popular type of paella today, and paellas have become synonymous with seaside dining, the original paellas were not made with seafood at all. In fact, the original paellas were made by rice farmers who worked in the fields, inland, not along the coast. They would make their paellas with ingredients they could get their hands on close by. Therefore, the original paellas were probably more similar to the traditional Valencian paella, which contains rabbit, chicken, snails, green beans and garrofón, (similar to butter beans).

The original paellas were not made with seafood. Photo: Luis Fernando Talavera / Pixabay

The word ‘paella’ did not appear anywhere until around 1900

Historians differ on the exact origins of paella, however, it was the Moors who brought rice over to Spain when they conquered it around 711AD. During their rule, many types of rice dishes were made. Despite this, food historians claim first recipes showing how to cook paella-like rice dishes only appeared between 1750 and 1800, and the word ‘paella’ wasn’t seen anywhere until around 1900.

The word paella did not appear until 1900. Sandra Wei / Unsplash

READ ALSO: Paella: Six reasons you have probably been doing it wrong

Paella got its name from the pan it is cooked in

There are several theories as to how paella got its name, but most agree that it’s named after the pan it’s cooked in, called a paellera. It’s a wide flat pan with two handles, that can be big or small, but is always shallow – around one thumb deep. The pans also have small dimples in the bottom, which are said to trap small amounts of liquid and help the paella to cook evenly. Traditionally, paella is supposed to be eaten straight out of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Paellas are named after the pans they are cooked in. Photo: jamstraightuk / Pixabay

The best paellas are cooked over open fires

Most Spanish chefs will agree that the best paellas are still made over open fires like they used to be in the past. This means that the paellas will also get a slightly smoky flavour, because of the burnt wood (in Valencia they say orange wood is the best). The high heat from an open fire also helps to create the socarrat – the crispy, almost caramelized layer of rice right at the bottom of the pan. There are still some restaurants in Valencia that make paellas over open fires the way they did in the past, such as Casa Carmela.

Paellas are best cooked over an open fire. Photo: EstudioWebDoce / Pixabay

The biggest paella fed 110,000 people

According to Guinness World Records, the official world record for largest paella was in Madrid back in 2001. It was created by a total of 80 chefs and fed 110,000 people. The pan was 21 metres in diameter and 26cm deep.

The biggest paella ever fed 110,000 people. Photo: Fernando Espí / Pixabay

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EXPLAINED: What should I do if I lose my wallet in Spain?

It can happen to the best of us, but what should you do if you lose or have your wallet/purse stolen in Spain?

EXPLAINED: What should I do if I lose my wallet in Spain?

Whether you’re visiting Spain or live here, losing your wallet or purse can create a huge amount of stress, not to mention the potentially laborious bureaucratic processes you have to go through in order to sort everything out.

Anyone can drop or misplace their wallet, and although Spain is a safe country, like any big city in the world pickpockets do operate. This is particularly true in the more touristy areas of Barcelona.

READ MORE: How Barcelona is once again Spain’s pickpocket capital

Hopefully it never happens to you, but what should you do if you lose your wallet in Spain? 

  1. Search – This one almost goes without saying, but be sure to retrace your steps, search thoroughly at home, and in bags, pairs of trousers etc before reporting the loss of theft. If you start the denuncia process (more on that later) and then find your wallet or purse, you’ll have wasted a lot of time and energy navigating the quirks of the Spanish bureaucratic system. Many cities in Spain have a lost and found office (oficina de objetos perdidos) which you should also consider visiting before getting in touch with police authorities. There are plenty of honest people in Spain, so fingers crossed the person who finds it will hand it in.
  2. Cancel your bank cards – If you’re certain you haven’t just misplaced it, consider cancelling your bank cards. Although many people now use their phones to pay, if you’ve lost your wallet or had it stolen it makes sense to cancel any debit or credit cards you had in there. Be sure to call your bank as soon as you’re sure you haven’t misplaced them.
  3. File a ‘denuncia’ – If you suspect your wallet was stolen, you should go to the nearest police station as soon as possible and file a report (denuncia in Spanish). It is also possible to do it by phone (the Spanish emergency number is 112) or online, but you will have to go to the police station to sign the denuncia at some point eventually, so it’s better to do it all in one go, and to do it as promptly as possible.

    It’s worth noting that very few Spanish police officers speak English, so, if possible, try to go with a Spanish speaker who can help you. Some police stations in larger cities may have a translator on site, but don’t count on it.

  4. Replace your ID cards – If you keep all your bank and ID cards together in your wallet, then losing it will mean that not only are you left without any money, but no identification to prove who you are.
    1. Passports – If you’re visiting Spain on holiday and lose your passport (or ID card, if you’re from an EU country) you should contact your embassy and arrange a short-term emergency passport in order to travel home.
    2. Driving license – if your driving license was in the wallet, you’ll need to go down to your local Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico and request a replacement. It is not usually necessary to make an appointment, but you will need to bring some kind of ID with you. Obviously this could be much more difficult if all your ID cards were lost or stolen in the wallet. If this is the case, bring any official documentation with your name, date of birth and crucially, photo, to help your case.

      You’ll also need to bring two passport photos and pay a fee of €20.

      All being well, you’ll be given a temporary license to allow you to drive until the replacement arrives.

    3. TIE/NIE – If you live in Spain, it’s likely you kept your TIE or old residency card (the small card-sized green document) in your wallet and have also lost that. As a foreigner living abroad, getting a replacement is important.

      To get a replacement, you’ll need to make an appointment (cita previa) at the extranjería. You can do this online by choosing the ‘card duplicate after theft or loss’ option on the dropdown menu. Some of the documents you’ll need are:

      – Form EX-17, (download here)
      – Proof of payment of the fee (790/012)
      – Original and copy of your passport.
      – Three passport photos.
      – Your denuncia.

FIND OUT MORE: What to do if you lose your TIE or other Spanish residency document