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Published: Wednesday February 26, 2014 MYT 6:10:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday February 26, 2014 MYT 6:33:36 PM

Bid to save the classic paella

Wikipaella aims to help 'police' paella around the world. Snails and artichoke are all right, but chorizo is a no-no. - Filepic

Wikipaella aims to help 'police' paella around the world. Snails and artichoke are all right, but chorizo is a no-no. - Filepic

Valencian trio hopes their Wikipaella site will bring traditional recipes to masses and rescue paella from further bastardisation.

HORRIFIED by chefs making paella with ingredients including poached eggs and avocados, three men from Spain’s Valencian region have banded together to fight what they call the increasing “prostitution” of one of the country’s most emblematic dishes.

Wikipaella aims to help “police” paella around the world, said co-founder Guillermo Navarro. “It’s a dish that’s really trendy these days. And there’s lots of people taking advantage of it and selling what they call authentic, traditional or Spanish paella.”

Time spent in Britain and the US gave Navarro a first-hand experience of how a dish treasured by his family for generations was losing its identity. “It’s like no, amigo, no,” he said, recalling some of the paellas he had eaten outside of Spain.

Particularly egregious to him was the slew of British chefs who add chorizo to their recipes. “If Jamie Oliver wants to make his own version of paella, well that’s good,” Navarro said. “But don’t present as something authentic or traditional, because it’s not. Imagine if we said that we were making typical British fish and chips and we were putting oranges in it?”

Navarro had thought that it was just a matter of misinformation outside of Spain. But the problem persisted when he moved to Madrid. “In Madrid, 90% of the paellas that you eat can’t be compared to real paella.”

It was from this frustration – shared by many from Spain’s Valencian region – that Wikipaella was born. “It’s a citizen’s response to this problem,” said Navarro. “They’re pulling the wool over our eyes, we’re going to try and tell the people this.”

The site aims to be a portal into the world of authentic paella and other traditional rice dishes of the region; whether through certifying restaurants that serve the real deal, sharing recipes or answering the public’s questions.

One of Wikipaella’s first steps was to create a definitive list of what can be allowed in an authentic Valencian paella, some feat considering that each community in the region has their own take on the rice dish. After analysis of 170 traditional recipes, it was decided: yes to ingredients ranging from snails to rabbit and artichokes; but no to everything else – especially the artificial food colouring often used instead of saffron.

The site will be a place where paella fans – Spaniards and foreigners alike – can come together and share their thoughts on what makes the dish authentic, said Navarro. He is hoping to have the English version of the site up and running by Feb 28. “Our objective is to have the majority of people know what an authentic paella from our region is,” he said. “We want it to be like pizza – where people can add in whatever ingredients they want, but that they know what a traditional pizza is.”

His team is not alone in taking paella seriously. In Benidorm, the Saint Anthony Catholic University recently announced it would be launching what it said was the world’s first Masters in rice and paella dishes of the Mediterranean. – Guardian News & Media

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, paella, Valencia, Valencian, Spain, Wikipaella

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