I spent my freshman year living abroad in Valencia, Spain, aka the birthplace of paella. After spending such a long time in Valencia, it began to feel like home and I miss it a lot. Naturally, every time I see anything that could possibly be related to Valencia I click on the link.

A few weeks ago, Tasty Japan did a video on Christmas Paella. After watching the video, I was highly disappointed because this was not paella, and this isn't the first time somebody has wrongfully called a dish paella. Just a few months ago, Jamie Oliver added chorizo to his take on paella and so many people complained that it led some to joke it was the one thing that could bring fractured Spain back together. Back in March, El Pais ripped Gordon Ramsay and a slew of other well-known chefs over their destruction of classic Spanish recipes. This misrepresentation of such a classic, well-loved dish is evident on just about every food website you check, even Spoon, so for those of you who don't know, this is what makes a true paella.

The Paella (aka the Pan) 

The pan is what makes the paella. In fact, the dish gets its name from the pan it's cooked in. If you make it in anything else (i.e. a frying pan) it is not a paella. Most paellas are cooked outside over an open flame, but stores in Valencia do sell pans designed to use in the oven. It provides useful measurements for the cooking of the paella, such as how much rice and liquid to add. 

The Ingredients


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The two main varieties of paella you'll find around Valencia are paella Valenciana and paella marisco. While these two call for very different ingredients, it's important to note some key staples. Rice and saffron, which both originate from the Moorish period, appear in all varieties of paella. The rice is important because the Valencian variety will keep a good texture through the cooking process, whereas other varieties tend to get mushy. The saffron is used to color the rice, but according to one of my Valencian professors, coloring could be used if saffron is unavailable.

Paella Valenciana

In this recipe, you'll find either rabbit or chicken with three different types of beans, including ferraura (a broad string bean), garrofo ( similar to a dried lima bean), and tavella (a white bean). Some varieties will use snails and this is also generally accepted, but no other types of meat will be found in the paella Valencia. This recipe is 100% authentic and approved by the providence of Valencia. 

Paella Marisco

This is a seafood variation of paella. It can be served with regular rice or arroz negro, which is rice flavored with squid ink. This adds a salty, slightly fishy taste I don't care for but many people love. It has shrimp or prawns (with the heads, legs, and outer shell still attached), clams, and calamari in it. 

So now you (hopefully) have a better idea of what a true paella is. Another important takeaway that I hope chefs around the world will see is that you can't just change a cultural food and pass it off as the same thing. These foods have been around for hundreds of years and there is a reason why they are still made the way they are, and that should be respected.