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All the flavor of fish from the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille's signature dish

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

With its origins rooted in the Provence region, particularly in the city of Marseille, bouillabaisse is a fish and shellfish soup that is made with a broth flavored with herbs, saffron and orange zest. It is served with slices of toasted bread and a spicy sauce called rouille, made with garlic, chili and olive oil.

Here we are in Provence, a land mirrored in the Mediterranean Sea and influenced by Greek and Roman civilizations.

The original recipe dates back to 600 B.C., when the Phocians, a Greek people, founded Marseille and brought with them their fish soup called kakavia. As time went on, the recipe was enriched with local ingredients and fish varieties typical of the area, such as redfish, gurnard, conger eel, and mullet.

It was the Occitan language that gave it the name it remains to this day, calling this dish bolhabaissa, which means to boil (bolhir) and simmer (abaissar), indicating the method of cooking the dish.

We are talking about one of the symbols of French gastronomy and of Marseille dining. Unmissable in almost every restaurant, with the most thorough in preparation techniques and raw materials offering this specialty to their customers, following the rules of the Charta de la Bouillabaisse Marseillaise, a true manifesto certifying the correct preparation of this culinary gem.

Bouillabaisse over the years has also become a tourist attraction for those who want to discover the flavors and traditions of Provence, a region rich in natural, artistic and cultural beauty.

Visiting Marseille means being able to savor bouillabaisse in one of the many establishments along the old harbor, admiring the breathtaking panorama of a rapidly evolving city full of new cultural and tourist attractions, a true strategic center of the South of France.

For a harmonious and consistent pairing, the wines of Provence are without a doubt the best choice to make, with their whites and rosés excellent for enhancing the flavor of the fish without covering it up. You can opt for a Bandol, which is a rosé wine that has notes of citrus and pear, recalling the scents of Mediterranean scrub and white flowers. Or Cassis, a white wine that reintroduces notes of white flowers and citrus, with the addition of notes of white fruit.

Imagine you are in Marseille, one of the oldest and most vibrant cities in France, the sun shining on the sea, brightening the harbor on a late summer day.

You sit in one of the many restaurants on the old harbor, where colorful boats swing on the water. Bouillabaisse is the dish to order, you quiver eagerly waiting for the chance to have this culinary experience surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a living city.

Here is the large steaming terrine filled with fresh fish and shellfish. The abundance of this dish is accompanied by toasted bread and the spicy, tangy rouille made with garlic, chili and olive oil.

You pour yourself another glass of wine, and you begin with this journey of discovery and enchantment.

The broth is rich and aromatic, thanks to the herbs and spices that flavor it.

Saffron gives it a golden color and the unmistakable exotic touch.

Orange zest gives it a citrusy freshness.

The fish is tender and juicy, Each bite is different because each piece of fish has its own texture and taste. The rouille is that interlude ofmerited spiciness, which goes well with the crunch of the still-warm bread.

The wine is light and fruity, the perfect groom for this soup.

You are savoring a history, that of Provence and its inhabitants. A story of sea and land, of cultures and traditions, of simplicity and refinement.

Do you know of other famous fish soups around the world? Does it remind you of a dish you have already tasted on one of your travels? What ingredients do you think make boiullabaisse a unique dish?

Share your thoughts or click here for more information.


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