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La Bouillabaisse en Provence - Discover the origin of this typical dish of Provence and its recipe

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - Discover the origin of this typical dish of Provence and its recipe
Virginie In Provence

My children love garlic confit and olives or fish soup. This often surprises my students when they come home. We often laugh together. So we love to eat bouillabaisse from time to time. I do not cook it but my cousin, who lives in Marseille, cooks it very well. She entrusted me with her recipe and agreed that I share it with you. I will also take this opportunity to share with you the origin of this emblematic dish of Provence.

La Bouillabaisse in Provence - How was one of the most famous dishes of Provence born?

Marseille is considered the cradle of this typical Provence dish. The history of bouillabaisse dates back several centuries. It is rooted in the tradition of local fishermen in the Mediterranean region.

Basically, bouillabaisse was a practical and economical way to use rockfish (less appreciated) or damaged fish because fishermen could not sell them on the market.

Rockfish are fish that live near the coast.

To avoid wasting these fish, fishermen cooked them in a broth with vegetables and herbs to make a soup.

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - Discover the origin of this typical dish of Provence and its recipe

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - How was the word “bouillabaisse” born?

Some people think it comes from Provence:

"face" for "broth"

"l" to "lower the fire"

Others think that the name comes from the word "bouillebaisso" in Occitan (a regional language) which means "prolonged cooking".

Over the years, bouillabaisse has become an increasingly refined and appreciated recipe.

It highlights the richness and variety of seafood in the region.

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - But what is “bouillabaisse”, a typical dish of Provence?

Originally from the city of Marseille, bouillabaisse is a famous fish soup from Provence.

The recipe varies by region and family. But we often find basic elements such as: an assortment of local rock fish, conger, scorpionfish, grondin, and other seafood.

The ingredients are cooked in a broth made from garlic, tomato vegetables and Provencal herbs. Saffron is responsible for the characteristic colour of the soup.

The bouillabaisse is served with slices of bread rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with a preparation called "rust", a sauce made from garlic, potatoes and chili.

As a rule, soup is served in a large dish. People serve themselves by choosing pieces of fish and seafood.

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - Discover the origin of this typical dish of Provence and its recipe
Fish soup

La Bouillabaisse en Provence - But what is the recipe for this typical dish of Provence?

The recipe is long. You need 1h of preparation and 1h30 of cooking.

The recipe I share here is for 6 people.

1. The ingredients of Bouillabaisse in Provence

If you want to prepare a good bouillabaisse, here are the ingredients needed for this Provençal dish:

For the fish soup:

1 kg of fish

2 Leeks

1 Onion

4 Tomatoes

2 Head(s) of garlic

2 bay leaves

10 cl of olive oil

1 branch of fennel

2 pinches of saffron

A bit of cayenne pepper

For fish

1 kg of rock fish

You have the choice between the Saint-pierre, the vive, the rascasse, the congre

6 pinches of salt

For rust

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon of strong mustard

2 cloves of garlic

To accompany

Slices of toast or croutons

2. The steps of the Bouillabaisse recipe in Provence?

For the soup of fish

Ask your fishmonger to prepare the fish you have chosen.

Wash and cut the leeks.

Peel and chop the onions.

Peel and crush the garlic cloves.

Wash the parsley and fennel.

Cut the tomatoes into small cubes.

In a pot, cook the vegetables over low heat with the olive oil, bay leaf and chilli.

Cook for 20 minutes.

Add the rock fish and season.

Leave to brown for 15 minutes

Pour 3 liters of boiling water.

Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and remove the fennel stems.

Blend the rest.

Switch to Chinese

Add the saffron.

Add salt if necessary

For rust and croutons

Chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Put the mustard and egg yolks in a bowl and mix.

Add the garlic.

Use the whisk while adding the olive oil to gradually increase the rust.


For bread

Preheat the oven.

Cut the bread into thin slices.

Toast the bread on both sides with a drizzle of olive oil.

Once out of the oven, rub the croutons with a peeled garlic clove.

For the rest of the recipe

Ask your fishmonger to prepare the chosen fish.

Peel the potatoes and cook.

Cut them into large dice.

Cook the potatoes in a pot for 30 minutes with an equal amount of fish stock and water.


Bring the stock of fish broth to a boil.

Poach the fish in the bottom of the water starting with the pieces with firm flesh.

Cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Put the potatoes in a large dish

Place the fish on the potatoes.

Pour the fish soup into a soup tureen.

Bring croutons, potatoes, fish and rust.

Serve with the fish.

The bouillabaisse is ready!

Bouillabaisse remains a flexible recipe and you can adjust the quantities and types of fish according to what is available locally, and what you prefer.

When do we eat Bouillabaisse in Provence?

All year round!

In Provence, bouillabaisse is traditionally consumed during festive meals and special occasions, especially during the summer season.

One of the best times to eat bouillabaisse in Provence is in the summer, when rockfish are fresh and abundant. Many restaurants along the Mediterranean coast offer bouillabaisse in their menu during the summer.

Where to eat the best bouillabaisse in Provence?

The place I love to eat bouillabaisse is in Cassis. I usually go to Gilbert, a restaurant along the shore. Bouillabaisse can only be ordered for 2 people. The price is 60 euros per person.

I hope this article will make you want to discover this typical dish of Provence.

If you come to my place for an immersion stay in Provence, I will make you discover the different aspects of Provence: the landscapes and the scents, but also the culture, the gastronomy... while helping you to improve your French. See you soon in Provence!


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