Valencian holiday – Episode 1 – where to eat the best paella

Valencia_paella_LR

Where can you eat this mouth watering paella?

Well, though Valencia is famous for being the hometown of paella, we went a bit out of our way for this exceptional one. We had tasted an awful paella in a tourist trap of the city centre on our first day, and vowed to only go for the top of the pop from there on.

And it turned out the best paella of Valencia..is not in Valencia. Rumour has it that it was actually born in La Albufera, a beautiful lagoon 15 km from Valencia. So there we went on a sunny day: we biked 20 km until the little village of El Palmar, at the heart of the Albufera,to taste the best paella.

Valencia_Albufera_LR

At first it seemed difficult to chose the “arroceria” (restaurant making paella and other rice dishes) to have lunch in: El Palmar has about 1000 inhabitants, and just as many arrocerias. In the end we chose the Arroceria Maribel, because there were a few people that we thought were locals sitting at their terrace, which seemed a good sign.

And I think we made the right choice it was well worth baking under the sun for 2 hours with a dry throat for this positively amazing paella : loads of extra-fresh shellfish such as prawns, crayfish, mussels and even lobster, in a rice dish infused with saffron and lemon, with a bit of crispy rice grains at the bottom. We ate it directly from the pan as is the custom, and as you can see, we cleaned our dish well!

Valencia_paella2_LR

Speaking of custom, I take the opportunity to share with you a few “golden rules of paella” that we have learned during our trip:

1. Paella is only eaten at lunchtime, never in the evening. If you find a restaurant that does it in the evening, you have just landed in a tourist trap..run away!

2. Paella is served in the pan, and though you can have a plate if you wish, but you would traditionnally eat from the pan.

3. Paella is found in the North of Spain, in the Valencia region. It is more of a regional dish than a national one.

4. Paella is always made-to-order and for minimum two people. Because it takes a long time to cook up, you could be waiting at least a half hour. If you get your paella in a plate and for one person only, chances are it comes from a batch of paella made earlier in the day that has been reheated.

5. Avoid paella in the centre of Valencia, and if you don’t have the time or will to go to El Palmar, you can enjoy a really good paella on the harbour of Valencia. Perfect lunch for a day on the beach!

Happy paella – hunting!

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