Paella is a rice dish colored and flavored with saffron and topped with a variety of meats, seafood and vegetables. It originated in Spain, particularly the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Paella came to be made in every region of Spain, with different variations. Some of these varieties were adopted by Filipinos, with further modifications that depended on the availability of ingredients.
Legend has it that the servants of Moorish kings created rice dishes by mixing the leftovers from royal banquets. Some say that that word "paella" has its roots in the Arab word “baqiyah” (leftovers).
Linguists think it more likely, though, that the word actually comes from the the Latin word "patella", a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods, since paella is cooked in a large flat pan. Nineteenth-century farm laborers first made paella for their meals in a flat pan over a fire using any available ingredients.
From being a simple laborer's meal, paella has evolved into a special dish made with expensive ingredients. Saffron is an expensive spice, consisting of the yellow stigmas from purple crocus flowers. Paprika is another spice that is used in paella. The rice used for paella is short-grained. Olive oil, different types of vegetables, seafoods and meat are used in the dish.
Originally paella did not have seafood since farm laborers did not have much access to it. Mostly vegetables, duck and rabbit were added to this sumptuous dish. In the Philippines, the more readily available chicken, chorizo, and seafood are preferred toppings.
Today, paella is enjoyed in many different ways and is considered a high-class dish. Paella Valenciana, Paella Negra, Paella Mixta, Paella Marisco and Paella Vegetal are only a few of the many versions of this dish. Paella may also have inspired the Pamapango rice dish bringhe.