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Paella now officially protected as a cultural treasure

November 11th – The Spanish Radish Blog

On the 9th of November 2021, the Valencian government published in its official gazette that paella is to be protected so that its virtues are safeguarded for future generations. It states, “Paella is an icon of the Mediterranean diet, because of both its ingredients and its characteristics as a representation of Valencian culture.” It’s revered because paella celebrates the “art of unity and sharing”. The humble Paella now officially protected!

The dish represents the essence of the Mediterranean Diet, featuring a balanced combination of prized ingredients such as olive oil, rice, seafood, vegetables. In the Valencia region, paella is typical of a Sunday family lunch bringing everyone together over a leisurely feast followed by a “sobremesa” (literal translation is “over the table”). The sobremesa is the time spent together following a meal, chatting, laughing, relaxing, etc. In Spain, this can go on for quite a while especially on a Sunday. This beautiful tradition is why you’re never rushed to pay in a restaurant in Spain and have to practically beg for the bill. 

The traditional (and only) way of cooking paella is getting it right from the start. It’s a fine balancing act because once you have carefully prepared all of your ingredients and cooking is underway you must not touch the rice. The gazette includes other pointers too so that over the years this deeply symbolic dish doesn’t change with the passing of time and generations.

Paella now officially protected status

While protected status for food and products is nothing new in Spain, this is the first case where a particular dish has been recognized as culturally significant. Many would argue that paella is a symbolic national dish and worthy of it’s newfound credentials, however other may wonder where does that leave other favorites such as the much loved tortilla, or the humble croquetta?

Top ten traditional Spanish dishes you need to know

Recently we published out top ten Spanish recipes that you must know and not surprisingly, the humble paella featured in the top three! 

Check out where some of the other favorites placed in our guide

A large pan of fideua de marisco is topped with some golden shrimp

3. Paella

Paella translates to ‘pan’ in the Valenciano language and it’s no wonder. Just try traveling to the Valencian district and not seeing this signature dish advertised on any of the restaurants up and down the coast. You’ll see it scribbled on the dusty chalkboards of local bars or emblazoned in gold lettering on the trendiest beachside restaurants, with the fate of a restaurant often weighed by the merit of their paella. 

Valencianos carry great pride in this widely worshipped rice dish, so much so that it is often referred to by many as the “national dish of Spain”. The authentic ‘Paella Valenciana’ proudly sits atop its rice throne, and is made with Valencian ‘Bomba’ rice and a combination of meats including rabbit, chicken, crab, and vegetables such as green bean, chopped tomato, added with a subtle mixture of Spanish saffron and other spices. 

Paella is available in various other flavors, with many gaining popularity in recent years. Visiting the region you’ll often find the most popular seafood paella (paella Mariscos), and other rice dishes include Paella with fish (Arroz a Banda), Vegetable Paella (Paella de Verdures), Meat Paella (Paella de Carn), and the distinctive Black Squid Ink Paella (Arroz Negre). 

Eating this dish also has its own custom, where you’ll see locals scraping the ‘socarrat, the delicious caramelized layer of rice that sticks to the bottom of the Paella dish.

Want to make something easier than Paella?

Check out this incredible Fideua squid ink pasta recipe!

a close up photo of a pan full of fideua negra with baby squid sitting on top

Let us know your favorite Spanish dish!

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