Seafood: the staple of Provençal cuisine

Inspiration

ProvenceNature and Outdoor ActivitiesFood and WineCoastal

Poissons de roche, en Provence.
© D Marche / Goût de France - Poissons de roche, en Provence.

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 14 March 2024, updated on 15 April 2024

Poutargue, fish soup, sea urchins, bouillabaisse... in Provence, seafood is eaten in all manner of dishes. Caught off the Mediterranean coast, fish are honoured on the region’s dinner tables and chefs have fun revisiting traditional recipes for visitors to enjoy.

Dried in the sun

Poutargues, en Provence.
© D Marche / Goût de France - Poutargues, en Provence.

Seaside speciality of the Mediterranean, the ‘poutargue’ is a pocket of dried and salted fish eggs. In Provence they feature mullet eggs, which fishermen are allowed to harvest from July to February. Some families in Martigues still work according to ancestral know-how, which requires delicate manipulation of the female fish in order to recover the egg pockets without tearing their protective membrane, and preserving the ‘pécou’ which suspends the poutargue to be dried in the sun.

Fish soup

Soupe de poissons, en Provence.
© D Marche / Goût de France - Soupe de poissons, en Provence.

Traditionally made from rock fish, this soup is another key dish in Provençal cooking. To enhance the flavour, it is typically accompanied by croutons spread with rouille (garlic sauce). The soup forms the basis of the famous bouillabaisse, served with whole fish and potatoes.

Sea urchins

Récolte d'oursin, en Provence.
© D Marche / Goût de France - Récolte d'oursin, en Provence.

Every creature hauled from the sea presents a feasting opportunity in Provence. During urchin season in January and February, you can taste ‘châtaignes de mer’ on the port in Carry-le-Rouet, Sausset-les-Pins and Fos-sur-Mer – while in summer, the Camargue ‘mouclades’ showcase the region’s mussels, and the scent of grilled sardines permeates the Côte Bleue during the lively ‘sardinades’.

Gourmet Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse du Petit Nice, en Provence.
© Richard Haughton - Bouillabaisse du Petit Nice, en Provence.

A Marseille institution elevated to an art form by several local chefs, bouillabaisse is the fish-based dish. In his three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Petit Nice, chef Gérald Passédat offers a very personal version, divided into three plates to tantalise foodies. Raw shellfish and wrasse fritters, followed by fish and shellfish in a saffron broth and finally, three pieces of whole fish with a rockfish and crab soup.

A giant aquarium

La Côte Bleue, entre Martigues et Marseille, en Provence.
© D Marche / Goût de France - La Côte Bleue, entre Martigues et Marseille, en Provence.

Gérald Passédat has nicknamed the Mediterranean his ‘vegetable garden’, from which he draws all the main ingredients of his recipes. This giant aquarium provides the tables of Provençal restaurants with sea bream, monkfish, whiting, sea bass, crayfish, sardines and mackerel to name only a few. To await the return of fishermen, it’s best to go early in the morning to port in Marseille, La Ciotat, Martigues, Carry-le-Rouet, Cassis or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The reward is well worth the early start, we promise.

Learn more:

This year, Provençal gastronomy was honored through the many events organized in France and abroad for [Goût de France]as well as with MPG 2019 (Marseille-Provence Gastronomie 2019) which brings together nearly a thousand culinary events in Provence: meetings of chefs, gourmet markets, picnics, urban gardens ...

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