The culinary diversity of the region of Valencia is extraordinary, still there’s an inevitable reference point: the paellas and the rices, both typical dishes of the autonomous community.
The lineup of specialities currently on offer at restaurants are difficult to classify in a simple list. First, a division should be made between rices (paella) and rice stews (caldoso) cooked in calderos, pucheros, peroles and cazuelas (varying types of metal or earthenware casseroles). There are also soft, spongy rices made in earthenware casseroles like arròs al forn (ovenbaked rice) and arròs amb costra (oven-baked rice with an omelette crust). Let’s not forget that paella is actually the name of the container in which this dish is cooked, preferably on a fire and spreading the rice in a thin layer all over the surface.
As dish, paella was born in l’Albufera, where rice is grown, adding the ingredients that the cooks had most at hand: chicken, rabbit, snails and different types of beans. There we have the traditional Valencian paella, but you can also find seafood paellas, and vegetable paellas for vegetarians and, in addition, there’s a long tradition of many other rice dishes in Valencia.
Arroz Caldoso con Bogavante (Rice with lobster)
This is undoubtedly one of the most delicious rice dishes prepared in the Region of Valencia, where the rice shares the spotlight with the lobster to the delight of seafood lovers.
Arroz Negro (Black Rice)
A classic Valencian rice dish that takes its colour from the squid ink used during preparation, the black rice is cooked in the same way as paella and it absorbs all the flavour of the cuttlefish.
Paella de Marisco
Seafood is one of the great gifts offered by the Valencian coastline to lovers of fine food and the seafood paella seems to be the coastal alternative to traditional paella made with cuttlefish, squid, crayfish, lobster, clam, or clóchina (Mediterranean mussel variety, smaller and fine).
Arroz al horno (Oven-baked rice)
The peculiarity of this rice dish is that it is baked in the oven, as indicated by the name itself. Just like paella and other Valencian rice dishes, it is humble in its origins, made using leftover stew, which is why the ingredients include chickpeas, pork ribs and morcilla sausage. This dish is highly typical of areas such as La Costera where the National “Arroz al Horno” Competition has been held for years, in the town of Xàtiva.
The most typical dish of Gandia is called Fideuà, it is essentially Paella using thin noodles instead of rice. This dish is such important that every summer the city of Gandia hosts the traditional Fideuà International Contest, where chefs from restaurants all over the world take part. h cooks from restaurants the world over participate.
Cover photo via @TurismoValencia