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Valencia paella
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This poll of chefs in Valencia has found out what is officially allowed in paella

The dish has been declared a cultural asset by the region... but its ingredients are seriously controversial

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

How do you like your paella? Stuffed full of prawns and mussels and shrimp? Meat-free? Well, the real experts – chefs in Valencia – have officially decreed how it’s supposed to be cooked. And fish and seafood are a definite no-go. 

The poll of 400 chefs from 266 Valencian villages has found that only ten ingredients are generally seen as acceptable: rice, water, olive oil, salt, saffron (or food colouring), tomato, flat green beans, lima beans, chicken and rabbit.

The findings are being taken seriously, too. The research was carried out by the Universidad Católica de Valencia and published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. And it was presented last week under the dramatic title of ‘A nightmare glocal discussion: what are the ingredients of paella valenciana?

Almost everyone polled agreed on the ten ingredients, with some variation on rabbit – 88 percent of chefs thought it should be included. Controversially, 62 percent thought paprika was acceptable, while 52 percent suggested adding rosemary. And just over 45 percent thought that artichokes should be thrown in the pan, too, although crucially only when they are in season.

The people of Valencia dismissively call paella made with other ingredients arroz con cosas, or ‘rice with things’. Some even think it needs to be made with water from the region to be the real deal. Last year, the regional government declared the meal a cultural asset, declaring the dish ‘an icon of the Mediterranean diet, because of both its ingredients and its characteristics as a representation of Valencian culture’. So if you’re in the area, just know that ordering something other than the ten-ingredient version is going to be contentious AF. 

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