What should we start with while speaking of Valencian cuisine? It is not a difficult question because the most famous dish is paella, known in different parts of the world far away from Spain. The word “paella” is as famous as the other such as pilaw, hamburger or shchi.
There are a lot of recipes to cook paella. In each camarka (an administrative district) there is a special recipe of paella. For example in some restaurants in Denia in Alicante province you will be offered paella with noodle. But it is oftener an exception to the rule. Traditionally paella is cooked with rice, vegetables, pork, poultry and/or sea products adding saffron and rosemary.
The main part of paella is rice. The quality of rice is very important because it influences the taste of the dish. Spain is one of the main rice exporters in Europe and the Spanish rice is of very high quality. It is considered that the ideal rice for paella can be grown only in one place in Spain, for example to the south of the capital Valencia near the lake Albufera.
Paella is cooked using a great quantity of olive oil. The most important in cooking paella is a special frying-pan with wide brims called paellera. The name of the dish is considered to come from the name of the frying-pan. But maybe it is vice versa, nobody knows for sure.
The other important thing in cooking paella is to cook it on the brazier. In most restaurants of Valencia they cook it in this way. In de luxe restaurants they use only vine wood to make fire. Paella is cooked minimum for two people because of a special cooking process. That is why you should ask a waiter about the size of paella.
In general the cuisine traditions of Valencia can be compared with those of the most regions of the Mediterranean coast. They do not only adore eating. Valencian meals are sacred rituals. The Valencian people do not only have breakfast, dinner and supper, they have got lunch, 5 o’clock meal and the so-called resopon or “supper for better sleeping”, which inspires modern dietitians with awe and which begins there at 10 p.m.
Certainly there are lots of different dishes besides paella on the tables of Valencian people. In each province there are their own traditional dishes. For example in Alicante you will have an opportunity to taste arroz a banda, that is rice with a special kind of fish and Lenten garlic sauce. In some restaurants they cook this dish with lots of meat, potatoes and rice, cooked in fish broth. In the central part of Valencia you will be offered tomato soup called gazpacho. In the resorts of Gandia their traditional dish is fideua made of pasta and sea products. The most famous restaurant where you can eat fideua is considered to be Fideua de Gandia.
Among the deserts the most famous is “turron” halva produced in Xixona in the province of Alicante. It is usually cooked for Christmas. Everywhere in Valencia you may eat fruit in sugar. As far as drinks are concerned, the most popular in Valencia is orange juice. It is offered everywhere. Besides it there is more exotic drink orchata or orshad which is cooked with almonds.