There are few nations in the world as associated with food as France. The birthplace of haute cuisine and the acclaimed Michelin Guide, the food of France has become synonymous with the finest culinary creations of the modern age. However, behind all the glamour and fine china is an exciting and varied range of foods, taking inspirations from across the nation and further beyond.
The South of France is one of the most popular destinations, not just in the country but across the world. While it is famous for its luxurious locations and beautiful beaches, the South of France is also full of traditional countrysides, where local ingredients are cultivated for the creation of local dishes. If you’re considering a visit to the area in one of our luxury holiday villas South of France, then keep an eye out for these regional favourites.
Steeped in history, Bouillabaisse is the quintessential French dish; a fish stew that embraces its humble beginnings but has also been altered and perfected to the finest degree. Dating all the way back to the Ancient Greeks who founded Marseille in 600 BC, Bouillabaisse was originally made by fishermen who wanted something to eat after work. Unwilling to use their prized catches, they would cook the bony rockfish that couldn’t be sold to restaurants by throwing them in a pot of boiling water, before seasoning with local herbs such as garlic and fennel. By the 19th century, the dish had made its way from the laps of workers to the finest tables in the region, from which it would spread across France.
What forms the original and definitive Marseille Bouillabaisse is hotly contested, and it is common for restaurants to sell their own version of the famous dish. However, certain ingredients are classed as must-haves. The fish used is usually rascasse – a red scorpionfish that lives in rocks near to the shore and can be venomous if not treated with care. The broth is traditionally flavoured by garlic, olive oil, local herbs and, depending on the class of the establishment, saffron.
Originating from the cultural city of Nice, Pissaladière is a homely dish that is often served at homes and cafes, or as a starter at local restaurants. A simple bread dish, Pissaladière is made in a similar way to a pizza, except with a thicker, more bread-like dough. The base is then topped with strips of caramelised onion, anchovies and olives to create a tart-like appearance. The toppings are occasionally pureed, making this a simple, hearty dish full of local flavours.
A dish made famous by the Disney movie of the same name, Ratatouille is one of the South of France’s most renowned culinary exports. Ratatouille is a simple vegetable stew originating from Nice and made from the vegetables grown in the local area, such as tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini and eggplants. The name ratatouille is relatively new, with its earliest accounts dating back to around 1877, but it is noted in modern cuisine for the openness of its creation, with various iterations across the country.
Another dish originating from Nice, salade niçoise is a light and easy salad that is regarded as one of the greatest salad dishes. As with many local dishes, it was originally a simple combination of tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil ate by people from poorer backgrounds. Nowadays, however, the possibilities are endless. Modern salade niçoise will often contain olives, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and anchovies and can be served either as a casual side or composed for fine cuisine. This dish is so popular in Nice that vendors also sell it as a speciality sandwich, known as pan bagnat!
While this dish does not originate from Southern France, you will undoubtedly come across street vendors serving this local favourite. Socca is seen as the local alternative to the famous French crepe; a thicker pancake made from chickpea flour that originates from Genoa, a city in Northern Italy less than 200km along the coast from Monaco. Socca is traditionally cooked in giant pans, sometimes over a metre in diameter, and is often topped by rosemary, salt and pepper.
The South of France is full of vibrant local ingredients, which help to create some iconic foods. These are just some of the dishes synonymous to the region, but you will be guaranteed a culinary adventure like no other – featuring some of the most exquisite meals in the world – during your stay here! If you’re looking for more inspiration in this region, check out our blog on the top places to visit in the South of France.