Five things you probably didn’t know about Spanish paella

Five things you probably didn't know about Spanish paella
World Paella Day September 20th. Photo: malubeng / Pixabay
As today is world paella day, we’ve put together some surprising facts about Spanish paellas that you probably didn’t know before.  

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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