Taking back the
Authentic Paella Recipe
By Edu Valor / Author - Spanish Chef
Do you want to hear a Valencian chef cringe? Tell them that any rice dish made in a paella pan is the authentic paella recipe. A paella can be any paella dish except for proud Valencians!
They are fiery about protecting their heritage. Today, this ages-old dish, treasured by Spaniards, enjoys protection against losing its tradition.
Not that I have anything against making your own version. On the contrary! I'm all for creativity.
But when I order an authentic paella in Spain, I'm expecting a paella Valenciana like this one. Or like the one below. Nobody likes to be surprised!
Chefs needed to define the recipe so we could all enjoy the old tradition.
What does the Science say?
A study done by the Catholic University of Valencia together with anthropologist Pablo Vidal and chef Jose Andres revealed one thing:
The ingredient list of almost 400 non-professional cooks older than 50 years. People from different villages and towns in Valencia were part of the research.
The ten essential ingredients are medium-grain rice, olive oil, chicken, rabbit, water, salt, tomato, saffron, string beans (bajoqueta), and garrofo beans. But they also wanted to know what other ingredients Valencians use.
They found 38 other regularly used ingredients and 50 other occasionally used ingredients. The ones that stood out were paprika/bell pepper, rosemary, and artichoke.
They had to limit the list to be considered an authentic paella Valenciana.
That includes those regular and occasional ingredients. In fact, all those recipe versions qualify as an authentic paella Valenciana.
In defining the recipe, ingredients hardly used or not significant in the study, were left out.
This research paper is in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science.
Preparing a sauté for an authentic paella full of aroma!
What about the other
With so much demand across the world, I think it’s necessary to set boundaries.
Let me go one step further.
The seafood paella – another hugely popular Valencian dish – is not THE authentic paella either. That should not surprise you by now!
A rice dish can be authentic Spanish but not always an authentic paella. You would add their defining ingredient(s).
That’s why we can have an authentic paella marinera (seafood paella, seafood as the defining ingredient) which has Valencian coastal roots.
That’s another pair of shoes, like other versions of the rice recipe. The purpose is to claim a set of rules to make up an authentic paella and what it represents.
If we want to use that name, I’d like the idea of a piece of history on a plate as part of a culture.
I like the thought of a lovely gathering around paella Valenciana while remembering the good old times. As if we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
A paella for 12 in good company! Photo by Valenciabonita.es
Join Us and enjoy a long tradition
So now you know the paella Valenciana is considered the authentic one, and there are many of them. Estimated at around 200 versions.
Again, seafood paella, black paella and other popular versions are NOT part of that list.
Whoever says the dish includes chorizo, is in for a witch hunt in gastronomic terms.
I don't necessarily agree because some traditional paella recipes include longaniza or other types of sausages.
Many Spanish and international internet chefs were flamed for doing just that.
On the other hand, you are free to combine ingredients as you please. It’s part of any culinary culture. Naming that creation is where the trouble hides.
The names Paella and Paella Valenciana are legally protected and are used only under certain conditions within Valencia. They have tried to break the rules and failed. Ask Catalan chefs!
When it comes to tradition and authenticity, certain people (including tourists) are interested in the culinary history of a region, and in tasting that history.
I myself enjoy that experience, as do others.