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Marseille’s True Bouillabaisse

Le Miramar, FranceYou can find tasty bouillabaisse all over southern France, but the best comes from Marseille, the lively seaport city on the Mediterranean coast. That’s where the rich, spicy seafood soup or stew originated, and the people of Marseille consider it their signature dish, part of their identity. In fact, the main recipe is considered so important it’s defined and protected by charter. Every restaurant has its own version, but the rules say a traditional bouillabaisse must have at least three kinds of fish, certain vegetables, and herbs and spices of Provence.

Chef Christian Buffa

Chef Christian Buffa, whose recipe calls for six different kinds of fish, claims to have the only true, authentic bouillabaisse in France.

Nobody knows when the famous soup was first prepared. Legends say angels brought it to feed shipwrecked saints, or the goddess Venus prepared it to lull her husband to sleep so she could slip away to her lover, Mars. On a more pragmatic level, since Marseille has long been a fishing town, it’s likely that unsold fish was thriftily turned into a spicy stew with many variations. According to the noted chef Christian Buffa, there’s only one true, authentic version—la vrai bouillabaisse—and it’s served in his restaurant in Marseille, Le Miramar. This festive spot on the waterfront, with both indoor and outdoor dining, is always busy. Bouillabaisse is a popular dish, though it takes time to prepare and is one of the most expensive items on the menu. This is a meal to be shared with friends.

At Le Mirama, it’s served in classic fashion, in two courses. First to arrive at the table is a thick, rich soup, to be dolloped with garlic-rubbed croutons and a deep orange rouille. Then another bowl with more of the soup arrives, this one filled with seafood. It smells of onion, garlic, tomato, and freshly cooked fish, and it tastes as good as it looks. – Marilyn McFarlane, RFT Contributor

Marilyn McFarlane, photo by Jan Jackson

 

 

 

 

 


Le vrai bouillabaisse

Today, bouillabaisse can be expensive, but it likely started as a way to use up left over fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to taste true Marseille Bouillabaisse? Try is wonderful recipe.



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.