Paella Valenciana – photo © Valencia Tourism

Click here for a traditional Paella Valenciana recipe

Paella is one of Spain’s most iconic foods. This rice-based dish is inextricably linked to south-eastern port city Valencia.

It is a meal family groups enjoy in restaurants, at home and cooked in the open on picnics. Traditionally men cook the paella over an open fire, similar to barbecues in the UK, and giant paella dishes often form the centrepiece of fiestas.

origins

Founded by the Romans, Valencia was under Muslim rule from 714 until 1238. It was the Moors who introduced rice from North Africa, cultivating the flat coastal plain. Today, almost one-third of all rice produced in Spain comes from around Valencia.

Paella was originally a peasants’ dish, made by farmers and labourers with whatever ingredients they had to hand and eaten straight from the pan. The name actually refers to the pan – la paella – rather than the food itself.

the dish

Most people would probably associate paella with seafood. Yet the traditional Paella Valenciana has no seafood in it at all. A type of stew cooked with dry rice and including green beans and garrofon (butter beans), it uses chicken, rabbit and snails as ingredients.

Today, there are many types of paella. A lunchtime dish, it should take up to 35 minutes to cook and will usually be for a minimum of two people.

 

Historic architecture in Valencia – photo © Peter Ellegard

the city

Valencia is full of history and beautiful architecture, augmented by the majestic new City of Arts and Sciences. Enjoy 7km of Blue Flag beaches and the nightlife in Barrio del Carmen. Buy local produce in the Central Market and trace the area’s rice history in the Rice Museum, set in an old rice mill. (www.museoarrozvalencia.com).

where to eat paella in valencia

Valencia has more than 8,000 bars, cafes and restaurants. For some of the best paella in and around the city, try one of these restaurants:

• La Pepica (www.lapepica.com): Founded in 1898, this restaurant by the beach has played host to such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Orson Wells, Antonio Banderas and King Juan Carlos.

• Restaurante Navarro (www.restaurantenavarro.com): Third generation family-run restaurant, it serves traditional Valencian dishes as well as innovative ones. 

• La Matandeta (www.lamatandeta.es): A short distance south of Valencia in El Saler, this rustic eatery near Albufera lagoon offers a selection of paella dishes.

where to eat paella in london

You can find paella in many London restaurants, including these:

• Andalucia Tapas Restaurant in Haymarket (www.andaluciatapas.co.uk): Two types of paella served, including a Valencia one but with seafood as well as chicken.

• La Siesta Bar De Tapas in Ealing (www.lasiestabardetapas.com): Several types of paella on offer including Mixta, with chicken, prawns, mussels and squid.

valencia facts

Getting there: Direct flights are operated by several low-cost airlines.

Tourist card: The Valencia Tourist Card offers free public transport within the city, including to the airport, discounts attractions and restaurant. Buy online at www.valenciatouristcard.com.

Restaurant week: Begun in 2009, this annual event held each November involves over 60 restaurants, with lunch costing just 20 euros and dinner 30 euros. www.vlcrestaurantweek.com

Information: Valencia Tourism www.turisvalencia.es

 Click here for a traditional Paella Valenciana recipe