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Traditional bouillabaisse recipe

Bouillabaisse, the emblematic dish of Provençal cuisine, has won over food lovers the world over. Originally from Marseille, this traditional recipe is made up of Mediterranean fish cooked in a broth flavoured with fennel and saffron. Easy to prepare, it is often served by the sea, adding to its charm. But why is it so expensive, and how can you make it yourself? We invite you to discover the history and secrets of this must-try dish from the region.

Recette bouillabaisse traditionnelle.

Origin and history of bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse has its roots in ancient Greece. Originally called "Kakavia", it appeared at the same time as the foundation of Marseille, in the 7th century BC. Originally, it was considered a dish for the poor, prepared by fishermen with seawater boiled in a cauldron on the beach. They used unsold fish to make this broth.

Over time, bouillabaisse was transformed and earned its letters of nobility. In the 19th century, it was popularised and immortalised by Provençal writers and poets such as Alphonse Daudet, Frédéric Mistral and Joseph Méry. Today, it is an essential dish in Mediterranean cuisine and a symbol of Provence.

The key ingredients for an authentic recipe

For an authentic bouillabaisse, certain ingredients are essential and must be of the highest quality. Here is a list of the key ingredients:

  • The fish: Preferably choose fresh, local rock fish such as scorpion fish, red mullet and red mullet. Other varieties such as conger eel, monkfish and even spider crab can also be used.

  • Vegetables: Onions, fennel, potatoes and tomatoes are essential. They should be fresh and, if possible, local.

  • Olive oil: This is a key ingredient, and should be of the highest quality.

  • Spices: Saffron and cayenne pepper are essential spices that give bouillabaisse its unique flavour.

  • Herbs: Bay leaves and Provençal herbs are essential for flavouring the stock.

Depending on taste and preference, other ingredients can be added, such as celery, garlic, saffron pistils, orange peel or pastis to add a touch of aniseed.

How do you prepare and serve bouillabaisse?

There are several steps to preparing bouillabaisse. Start by preparing the stock. Sauté the onions, garlic, tomatoes and fish in olive oil. Then add the fennel, parsley, bay leaves and saffron. Leave to cook over a low heat for about an hour.

At the same time, prepare the rouille, a sauce made with garlic, chilli and saffron that traditionally accompanies the bouillabaisse. Puree an egg yolk, a teaspoon of mustard, tomato paste and a pinch of cayenne pepper, then slowly add oil while stirring to obtain an emulsion.

Traditionally, bouillabaisse is served in two parts: first the stock with garlic-rubbed croutons and rouille, then the fish and potatoes. Make sure you have deep plates for serving.

The art of tasting bouillabaisse in Marseille

Tasting bouillabaisse in Marseille is an experience in itself. Local restaurants generally serve it according to tradition, in two stages. First, the broth is served with garlic croutons and rouille, a sauce made from garlic, chilli pepper and saffron. Then the fish and potatoes are served separately.

However, each restaurant offers its own interpretation of this classic recipe. Some may add seafood such as prawns or small crabs to the bouillabaisse. Others may opt for a basic presentation with slices of bread dipped in the broth.

What's more, some establishments even offer a guided tasting session where a small card explains how to enjoy each sequence of the bouillabaisse. It is also possible to find a bouillabaisse structured in three courses, instead of the traditional two, for a more refined dining experience.

Finally, it is common to enjoy bouillabaisse with a glass of local white wine, which perfectly complements the dish's iodised and spicy flavours.

Gastronomic variations: Portuguese bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse has also crossed borders, with a variation in Portugal known as Caldeirada de peixe. This Portuguese version, traditional in coastal villages, includes a variety of fish and shellfish depending on the catch of the day.

Caldeirada de peixe is distinguished by its preparation: it can be served either as a soup or as a main course, often accompanied by slices of fried or toasted country bread.

The recipe also calls for a few special features, such as the use of olive oil, onions and garlic, and the addition of squeezed lemon. Vegetables such as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes are often included in the preparation.

Finally, Caldeirada de peixe is usually seasoned with salt, paprika and pepper, then simmered with white wine and bay leaves.

Where to eat the best bouillabaisse in Marseille?

In Marseille, the Vieux-Port is undoubtedly the best place to enjoy an authentic bouillabaisse. The most famous restaurants for this traditional dish include :

  • Le Miramar: This Marseilles institution is renowned for its bouillabaisse. It is even a founder member of the bouillabaisse charter. The restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the Old Port.

  • L'Hippocampe: Since 1993, this restaurant has been serving traditional homemade dishes made with fresh produce. Their bouillabaisse is very popular.

  • Chez Loury and Le Mistral: These two restaurants are often cited as the best places to enjoy bouillabaisse in the Old Port.

  • 1860 Le Palais - Vieux Port Canebière and Les Arcenaulx: These two restaurants are very popular for their bouillabaisse according to TheFork users.

Don't forget to book in advance, as these restaurants are very popular.

Recette Bouillabaisse de Marseille.

Your questions about bouillabaisse.

Following the publication of this article, you sent us many questions about bouillabaisse. We are going to answer the most frequently asked questions in order to inform all our readers.

What kind of fish is used in bouillabaisse?

Traditionally, we use rock fish, which give the bouillabaisse its great flavour and which are not noble fish to be cooked in any other way. The most classic fish are gurnard, scorpion fish and old scorpion fish.

Why is bouillabaisse so expensive?

Often seen as a poor man's dish by tourists, they will be impressed by the price of making a good traditional bouillabaisse. Between the fish, the spices and the preparation time, it often costs over €50 in a restaurant.

Why is this dish called "bouillabaisse"?

The name of this dish comes from the Provençal word "bouiabaisso", which means to boil and lower. This fish soup is brought to the boil and then simmered over a low heat. This strange-sounding name is also what makes this dish so famous!

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