Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, made with rice, meat, or fish, and a deliciously tasty sauce. While many countries and regions have their own recipes and variations, the best paellas are made in Spain, on the beach, with fresh seafood.
Considered by many gastronomic experts to be the ultimate national dish of the country of Spain, this meal seems to be getting more and more popular all over the world. And now, it even has an entire day dedicated to celebrating it.
National Spanish Paella Day is the celebration of this beautiful culinary creation that is delicious, nutritious, and filled with cultural fun!
History of National Spanish Paella Day
The dish known as Spanish Paella hails from a coastal region in Eastern Spain. Specifically, it can be traced back to Valencia, a beautiful port city on the Balearic sea. Since the main ingredient of this dish is rice, it makes sense that the place of paella’s origins would be a major producer of rice. In fact, with one of the biggest natural ports near the Mediterranean sea, Valencia has been an important rice producer for about 800 years.
The humble beginnings of the food hail back to the farmers and farm laborers who needed to cook a noonday meal over an open fire. Beginning with rice, the farmers would simply add whatever they could find around. This might have included tomatoes, onions, beans, or even snails for protein. For special occasions, rabbit, duck, or chicken may have been added along with saffron or other precious spices. Of course, Valencia’s nearness to the water meant that seafood also eventually ended up as a natural part of the dish.
As the culture of this dish continued to develop, certain types of ingredients became more popular, Valencia Rice was more readily available in other regions, and paella became a staple for people across Spain. Today, paella is a generic name for a category of rice dishes that contains more than 200 variations!
Regarding the name, it is pronounced “pa-e-ya”. The meaning of the name is disputed, however, Valencia has its own version of the Spanish language and the word “la paella” may refer to “the pan” in which the dish is cooked. Although another story says that the dish is called after the pan, “paellera” which is a large, two-handled pan that is made especially for cooking the dish over an open flame.
How to Celebrate National Spanish Paella Day
Celebrating this day comes with a whole lot of fun that can be centered around this beautiful, humble meal. Grab a group of friends and get started with some of these ideas for celebrating National Spanish Paella Day:
Make Spanish Paella at Home
Even for people who aren’t able to access the beaches of Spain to make this meal, it’s still worth joining in on the celebration to try to create some in the kitchen at home. The fact that it is a one-pot meal is even more attractive because it makes cleaning up super easy.
Enjoy National Spanish Paella Day from the comfort of your own kitchen by getting adventurous with your cooking!
These are some of the ingredients needed to make one variety of a traditional, simple Spanish Paella dish:
- Spanish Rice. The most important ingredient, Spanish Rice is short-grained and highly absorbent without getting mushy. It’s also called bomba rice, arroz redonda, or calaspara rice. If necessary, this can be substituted with medium-grain rice, but not long grain. And don’t wash the rice before cooking.
- Produce. Onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, parsley or peas (frozen).
- Saffron. A critical flavor to make this taste just right, saffron can be found at international grocery stores.
- Spices. Paprika, salt, pepper, bay leaf.
- Seafood or meat. Mussels, calamari, jumbo shrimp, chicken thighs.
- Other ingredients. Olive Oil, white wine, chicken stock.
Host a Paella Gathering
Today, people in Spain usually do not simply eat a single dish of paella on their own. Paella is a distinctly communal dish that is often made in large vats and eaten together at the beach or in a bodega. Because of this, in order to truly appreciate the culture and flavor of paella, it should be enjoyed with a group.
Making paella at home can be a group effort, with everyone bringing a different ingredient to put into the pot. Whatever the case, guests should be sure to come with big appetites–and possibly a bottle or two of wine to share!
Go Out for Paella
Those who aren’t feeling as adventurous in the kitchen still have plenty of options for celebrating the day. Simply head on over to an authentic kitchen that serves the dish. But don’t forget that paella is better when shared around the table.
Try Speaking Some Spanish
Since this dish celebrates its origins coming from Valencia, Spain, this would be a great day to brush up on a little bit of the Spanish language. Whether or not Spanish was a class taken in high school, it’s a language that isn’t extremely complicated, has a whole host of fun words, and can be a very useful language to know all over the world!
Practice these easy Spanish words in celebration of Paella Day:
- Hola = Hello
- Adiós = Goodbye
- Gracias = Thank you
- Por favor = Please
- Sí = Yes
- No = No
- Lo siento = I’m sorry
- Paella = Paella!
Plan a Trip to Valencia, the Home of Spanish Paella
Sure, Spanish Paella made at home can be delicious. But certainly, it would be at its finest in the original hometown of the dish: Valencia, Spain! For the perfect celebration of this day, call up a travel agent and book a trip to visit the beautiful city on the eastern coast of Spain in the Balearic Sea just in time for National Spanish Paella Day.
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain and is home to miles and miles of golden sandy beaches. But it also offers an old town that provides all of the architecture, cafes, and street art that one could want from a coastal city in southern Europe. Not only that, but green spaces and unique culture abound.
Of course, the most important thing to do while visiting the beautiful city of Valencia is to eat as much Spanish Paella as is humanly possible! At least 20 different restaurants in the city serve the dish in its traditional manner.