The Real Bouillabaisse of Marseille

Ginger and Nutmeg had been on the road for 12 days travelling to Italian cities and ski resorts. They arrived back in Aix en Provence after a 9+ hour drive, and it took a full day to get through the laundry, pick up Jade from the “doggie spa” and buy some groceries.  It was at some point that day, that they noticed a text message from Truffle – he was just a few kilometers away. His planned high-mountain ski randonnée in Corsica had been cancelled due to awful conditions.  The great news is Truffle was in town and could come for dinner, the bad news: what do you serve a guy who makes foie gras and magret de canard for regular pre-dinner snacks? Dinner was fine, the wine and company much better.

Nutmeg decided to make that up the next day by suggesting a little lunchtime trip to Marseille to sample “charter” Bouillabaisse, at a restaurant at the Vieux-Port in Marseille. Bouillabaisse is essentially a seafood soup, with origins as a typical fisherman’s meal.  The humble soup has evolved, and the dish now should include choice pieces of fish and sometimes crustaceans. With a pride of “ownership” and desire to standardize the ingredients, the preparation, and the service eleven (11) of the top chefs in Marseille created the Bouillabaisse Charter in 1980.


A real bouillabaisse should have at least 4 rock fish (from the Mediterranean), one of which must be racasse (scorpionfish); other typical fish are grondin (sea robin) and congre (European conger). This soup takes a long time to prepare.  The name comes from two words “boul” (boil) and “abaisse” (reduce). The fish is simmered in a vegetable broth (leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, etc.) and flavoured with typical regional spices (garlic, basil, bay leaf, orange peel etc.). Bouillabaisse should be served in two parts: the broth is served and then followed by a second bowl of broth filled with the cut up fish. Always served alongside are croutons and a rouille (mayonnaise of olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper), this is not a light appetizer so do not fill up on the croutons.  The cooked fish is presented to the table and then cut up in view of the guests, while they enjoy the first course.


Considering themselves as “foodies” and enjoying the fact that Truffle was visiting, they decided to order langoustine as well.  It was excellent, but meant the addition of a third bowl of soup in between traditional two!! After a very excessive, 2 1/2 hour meal, the trio set off with Nutmeg in the lead, for a LONG walk up the hill to the Basicilla of Notre Dame de la Garde. Nutmeg is pretty sure that the walk up and down might have worn off the appetizer course – no dinner for the team that night but it was a great meal!


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