One of the things I felt we had to do during a recent family trip to Spain was to try paella. However, while planning the trip I received a recommendation for a paella cooking class. This was way better than simply eating it, especially because we even got to buy all of the ingredients for it before. This allowed us to tour one of the most historic markets of the region. Needless to say, we had a blast!
Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMomI believe that traveling to Valencia and not having paella is like visiting Italy and not getting pasta at least once.
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However paella isn’t just a traditional dish of the city. It is an experience. So I decided that the best way to understand how intricate it is was to go on a cooking class.
Maximo, from Valencia Tourism, recommended my family visit the School of Rice and Paella (Escuela de Arroces y Paellas). This is a place that allows you to cook and taste paella the traditional way, but before that, you are taken to the largest Central Market in Europe to get the ingredients.
Paella Cooking Class – Much More than Inside a Kitchen
My family and I arrived to the market at 10 a.m. Our teacher, a well-known chef named Jaime, was waiting for us. Before all of the shopping started, Jaime told us all about the history of the market.
Mercado Central de Valencia
- 1914 was when the first stone was placed, but vendors were meeting here since 1344.
- In the turn of the 20th century, the vendors decided it was time to work together and build an indoor marketplace to protect themselves from the weather.
- 1400 vendors all put in money for its construction.
- The market was completed in 1915 and all the 1400 vendors had a small stall.
- Through the years the vendors sold their stalls or bought out others. Now there are 400 in total.
- The market has one of the strictest requirements for cleanliness and order.
- The market has two halls: the produce and meat section.
- Spaniards are the second biggest seafood eaters in the world after Japan.
- If you look on top of the market outside you will see a parrot ornament. It is there to represent the saying that when women haggle, they sound like annoying parrots.
Choosing the Ingredients for Paella
I often read about successful people and one thing that most successful and well-known chefs have in common is the fact that they spend most of their mornings choosing the freshest ingredients.
This was exactly what we got to do. Jaime does this daily for his restaurant, even if there is no tour.
A true Valencia paella has few ingredients:
- Chicken Snails
- Saffron – The best costs $4,500 per kilo; 180,000 flowers are used to produce a kilo. (This alone justifies the price of paella).
- Rice – The variety called Bomba, which comes from the Valencia region.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
We worked our way around the market until everything was bought. The walk from the market, along the lovely, pedestrian, windy streets of historic Valencia towards the restaurant was also a fun part of the activity.
The tours take time during the morning. That way you get the time to shop and cook slowly and have what you prepared for lunch. Then the restaurant shuts down between 3 – 7 p.m. for a second tour.
Paella Cooking Class – A Must Do for the Family
Among all of the things I wanted to experience in Spain, learning how to cook Paella was number one on my list. Being in an authentic Valenciano kitchen, working side by side with a local chef, felt like I was living a dream.
The best part is that my family was loving it as much as I was.
My five year old boy had to watch from the sidelines but my 11 year old was fully immersed in the process. It took around 45 minutes for the first part of the cooking process.
Then we had another 45 minutes for the broth (the most important part) to seep into the rice.
These last 45 minutes don’t require any action so that’s where the eating starts. They provided us with tapas.
The funny part was that after the tapas we were full. They were delicious! We also got plenty of wine and beer as part of the package.
However, once the paella was ready, we forgot all about being full and ate almost all of it. We even got some dessert.
In the end we got diplomas.
This was definitely one of the most entertaining and fun experiences out of all the educational activities we tried in Spain.
Address: Carrer dels Juristes 12 – Valencia (Spain)
Phone: +34 963 153 856