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Day 17: Spain and Paella

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Paella is one of the best-known dishes in the Spanish cuisine. For this reason, it is seen internationally as Spain's national dish, but Spaniards almost unanimously consider it to be a dish from the Valencian region; those who live there, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.

Paella takes its name from the wide, shallow traditional pan used to cook the dish on an open fire. Paella means "frying pan" in Valencian, Valencia's regional language.

As a dish, it may have ancient roots, but in its modern form it is traced back to the mid-19th century, in the rural area around the Albufera lagoon adjacent to the city of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Paella valenciana is the traditional paella of the Valencia region, believed to be the original recipe, and consists of round grain rice, bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, garrofó (a variety of lima or butter bean),and optionally snails. Artichoke hearts and stems may be used as seasonal ingredients. Olive oil is used as a base, and saffron and (sometimes) whole rosemary branches are used as seasoning.

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Paella de marisco (seafood paella) replaces meat with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables, while paella mixta (mixed paella) combines meat from livestock, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans, with the traditional rice. Other popular local variations of paella are cooked all through the Mediterranean area, the rest of Spain and internationally.

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