If you come to Marseille, then you absolutely have to try bouillabaisse. This is a delicious traditional soup made with fresh fish, shellfish, and vegetables, that is seasoned with saffron and Cayenne pepper. Even if you can find similar dishes in the countries all around the Mediterranean Sea, bouillabaisse is quite different. Traditionally, the broth and the fish are served on separate plates. Also, in Marseille, they are taking bouillabaisse very seriously. For example, in 1980, the Bouillabaisse Charter was made, codifying the ingredients and methods of this soup's preparation.
In the beginning, bouillabaisse was just a simple soup made by the fishermen of Marseille. They were using only fish and shellfish they couldn’t sell at the market. To prepare this soup, they were also adding some vegetables, like onions and leeks. Tomatoes became an essential ingredient of this dish only in the 17th century. It was in the 19th century when bouillabaisse started to be prepared and served in the restaurants. Starting from that period, the recipe for this soup has become more and more refined. Today, bouillabaisse in Marseille is made with freshly caught rockfish, which is cooked in fish stock and white wine with saffron. In some much more expensive versions of this soup, lobster is also used as an ingredient.
To prepare the authentic bouillabaisse from Marseille, you will need a red scorpion-fish, which is a variety of Mediterranean rockfish. Also, other commonly used ingredients are sea robin, red gurnard, monkfish, john dory, velvet crab, and sea urchins. In addition to fish and shellfish, vegetables like potatoes, garlic, onions, and tomatoes are added. This dish is traditionally seasoned with herbs, saffron, and Cayenne pepper. Bouillabaisse is always served with the rouille. This is a kind of mayonnaise sauce made with egg yolk, garlic, olive oil, pepper, and saffron. If you order this soup in some traditional restaurants in Marseille, don’t be surprised to see that the broth and the fish are served on separate plates.
According to the Marseillais, a real bouillabaisse is only the one made by their grandmothers. However, there are a lot of restaurants where you can taste this delicious traditional soup from Marseille. Many of those restaurants are situated in the Old Port, and “Chez Loury” is probably one of the best. They have been serving traditional and fresh bouillabaisse for almost a half-century. Of course, to enjoy this typical soup from Marseille, you need to know that this dish is quite expensive. The good bouillabaisse is costly because it is always made with tasty and fresh fish.
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