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Paella is now 'national heritage' and its first-known recipe is revealed
Monday, November 15, 2021 @ 6:25 PM

THE most international household name in Spanish cuisine, paella has now been awarded 'intangible heritage' status nationwide.

Known worldwide as ‘Spanish cuisine’, paella is actually native to the east-coast region of the Comunidad Valenciana (photo: Tapas Magazine)

Not quite UNESCO status, but the national equivalent, the tag applied for in May this year by the Mediterranean region of the Comunidad Valenciana has been duly granted, and although paella needs little advertising in itself, global tourists in Spain will now be unable to escape the knowledge that it is these three provinces – CastellónValencia and Alicante – where the popular saffron-yellow rice dish comes from.

In applying for the status of Bien de Interés Cultural Inmaterial, or BIC Inmaterial (literally translated as 'Intangible Heritage Interest Asset'), the Valencian regional government explained paella was 'not just a dish', but a 'thread binding the region's society together'.

Like most national or regional cuisine anywhere in the world, paella's origins are humble and simple, and the BIC application pointed out that it continues to be the most 'democratic' and 'classless' of all dishes, given that it's relatively cheap to whip up a basic version and often comes as the main course in a cut-price set lunchtime meal or menú del día, which typically range from around €6 to €15 for three courses, bread and a bottle of water or glass of wine, but at the same time, highly-exquisite versions of paella are served up in the kind of multiple Michelin-starred eateries where a similar-sized meal would cost you a three-figure sum per head.


Pronunciation and preparation warnings: A quick survival guide

Given that so many variations of paella exist – and hundreds more that are not, strictly-speaking, paella but look and taste like it and come under the heading of 'rice dishes', or 'rice with' (arroz con or arròs amb) – there is no single, authentic, unchangeable recipe that, if you alter just one ingredient or quantity, ceases to be the 'real thing'.



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