Spaniards enjoy varied cuisine, but paella, a rice dish, ranks as the most popular, and Spanish citizens consider this rice concoction the national dish. Paella exists in several forms; it contains a staple base of rice and cooked vegetables, but adds shellfish, poultry or other meats, depending on region of production. Paella originates from the Valencia region, and it enjoys a long history in Spanish culture, dating back to the times of Moorish influence.
Paella exists in three distinct styles: seafood, meat and mixed. The original recipe of Valencia contained the standard rice and vegetable base, along with hearty meat such as rabbit or chicken. However, people often modify this recipe, sometimes preparing paella with high quality luxury meats like snails and chicken liver, especially when entertaining. Some cooks also add seasonally available herbs and spices, like lemon, rosemary, thyme and sage. Others create paella with beans and supplemental vegetables, such as artichokes and peppers.
In addition to paella, Spaniards consume large quantities of seafood, cheese and wine. Popular seafood includes calamari, or fried squid, and octopus. In the northern region of Spain, hearty meats such as lamb and ham enjoy widespread consumption. Chorizo, a spicy sausage, originates from this area. Spanish citizens consume many types of cheeses too; worldwide, Manchego and Cabrales rank among its most popular.