French heritage cannot be summed up in a list of monuments to visit. It also brings together a language of distinction as well as culinary specialties, often linked to certain regions and sometimes passed from generation to generation. Here is a small tour of France’s typical food.
1) Foie Gras
This can be found on all tables during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Even if the world associates this specialty with France, the tradition of fattening geese can be traced back to antiquity. The best way for you to try it is on a piece of brioche with a bit of onion spread or fig jam.
2) Oysters (Huîtres)
Oysters are the second most common product at Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in France. This shellfish can be eaten warm, but real oyster lovers prefer eating it raw and still alive. You can eat oysters either plain, or with a dash of lemon juice, or vinegar, or with a shallot sauce.
This probably isn’t the lightest dish that you can try in France. Originally from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, this dish is made up of white beans, duck legs and pork (different kinds). It has been enjoyed for centuries by rural families, and the French continue to cook it to bring the family together.
4) Basque-Style Chicken (Poulet Basquaise)
The Basque country is one of the richest regions of France in terms of cuisine. There they raise poultry, specifically some rare breeds of chicken and duck. The poulet basquaise is a full dish where the meat is made tender by use of “piperade”, a sauce made up of Bayonne ham, peppers, tomatoes and Espelette pepper.
5) Herb Buttered Snails (Escargots au Beurre Persillé)
Travel to Burgundy to discover another typical French recipe, cooked snails with herb butter, commonly called “escargots à la bourguignonne”. Cooked, as the name suggests, with a butter parsley cream, they are presented in their shells and you eat them with a little skewer.
6) Charente Mouclade (Mouclade Charentaise)
The area from La Rochelle to Ile de Ré is popular once the mild temperatures return. Many visitors, charmed by the region’s culinary specialties, make this flavorful recipe at home. Mussels from Bouchot (a very popular type) are cooked with shallots, garlic cloves, herbs, spices, eggs, some cream, and most importantly some Pineau des Charentes (local alcohol).
7) Breton Buckwheat Pancakes (Galettes Bretonnes)
Because of a gourmet enthusiasm, Breton creperies are almost everywhere in France. But what is a galette? It is a savoury crepe made with buckwheat flour that gives it its greyish color. The traditional fillings are ham, cheese, and eggs or andouille and onions; however, the varieties have grown over time and have become more creative. If you are in Paris, the best creperies of the capital can be found in the Tour Montparnasse neighborhood.
8) Flemish Carbonnade (Carbonnade Flamande)
You can find a large selection of beers in the north of France. In fact, the proximity to Belgium has inspired generation after generation of housewife to cook the carbonnade flamande. This is a beef dish, slow cooked in light ale and aromatics. When it is almost done cooking, traditional gingerbread spread with mustard is added to give even more flavour to this sweet and savoury dish.
9) Quiche Lorraine
Let’s travel to Alsace to discover this original recipe. The quiche Lorraine is, according to the Alsatian tradition, a tart topped with a mixture of cream, milk, eggs, nutmeg, and grilled bacon. These ingredients give a little smoky flavor that is well appreciated in all parts of France. Today, quiche Lorraine has become so popular that you can find it in a bakery or restaurant or in a more modern form with mushrooms, leeks and chicken.
Raclette has been imported to Savoy from Switzerland. It is a dish of cheese (raclette cheese) that is melted (traditionally with wood fire, but increasingly using small electric pans nowadays) and that is eaten with potatoes, cold meat, onions and pickles. This is the ultimate winter-friendly meal.
11) Cheese Fondue (Fondue Savoyarde)
Cheese fondue is also a perfect winter-friendly cheese meal. Three different kinds of cheeses are melted together in a pot (beaufort, comté, and emmental), and white wine is added. With a specific skewer, each guest dips a bit of bread. According to the tradition, if someone drops their bread into the pot, a forfeit is given to them. Stay focused!
12) Beef Fondue (Fondue Bourguignonne)
Here is another type of fondue. This time you do not dip bread in cheese, but cuts of raw meat (generally beef) in boiling oil, which cooks the meat. Do not trust what the name says: although it is very popular in France, it does not come from Burgundy (Bourgogne), but Switzerland! The name is actually a reference to the beef meat that is the basis of this dish (and Burgundy is famous for its cattle farming).
13) Gratin Dauphinois
In the Grenoble region, another winter dish has become an absolute must, the gratin dauphinois. Traditionally, it is made up of sliced potatoes cooked with cream, milk and nutmeg. No cheese is added in the original recipe but there might be some in what you get. This dish is so popular that everyone likes to cook it their own way.
Tartiflette also comes from the Savoy region; it is made from potatoes, bacon, onions and reblochon, a Savoyard cheese. There is a variation called “croziflette” where potatoes are switched with crozets, small buckwheat pastas.
Bouillabaisse is a well-seasoned soup typical of Marseille. Since there are so many fishers in the area, the dish is logically made of various fish, shellfish, tomatoes, aromatics from the South of France, mustard, and egg yolks. You eat it with bread and potatoes.
In Provence, ratatouille is the ultimate grandmother dish. It is so delicious that many restaurants today offer it to accompany fish or meat.
17) Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf bourguignon is a traditional family meal. It consists of slow cooked beef cuts with red wine, root vegetables and mushrooms. This dish is typical of Burgundy, a region in which cattle farmings and red wine are famous.
18) Blanquette of Veal (Blanquette de Veau)
Blanquette of veal is also a traditional slow-cooked meal.It is cooked with veal shoulder or chest, cream, and a carrot and onion broth. It is often accompanied with mushrooms, but this is not compulsory.
The pot-au-feu is the ultimate traditional family meal. Beef meat is made tender by being slowly cooked in a carrot, turnip and leek broth.
The coq-au-vin (literally “rooster in wine”) is a downright symbol of French cookery since, according to the legend, the recipe dates back from the Gergovia battle and the victory of the Gallic leader Vercingetorix over Julius Caesar. It is a variation of the famous boeuf bourguignon – cooked with rooster marinated in red wine with bacon and mushrooms.
21) Cottage Pie (Hachis Parmentier)
Hachis Parmentier is a two-layer dish: minced meat with aromatics for the bottom layer, and a homemade potato mash (often au gratin) for the top layer. In general, you can eat hachis Parmentier with a green salad.
22) Steak Tartare
Steak tartare is a typical pub dish in France. It is a preparation made of thickly minced raw beef or horse meat to which spices are added and with an egg on top. It is generally served with French fries.
23) Sauerkraut (Choucroute)
Historically speaking, sauerkraut comes from China and was exported by the Huns all the way to Austria before reaching Alsace, where it is now the flagship dish of the local cusine. It simply is fermented cabbage with potatoes, lard and different kinds of sausage. There is a variation, a “sea sauerkraut”, where cabbage is not eaten with pork meats but with fish (salmon, whitefish, and smoked fish).
24) Cheese Soufflé (Soufflé au Fromage)
Cheese soufflé is a classic, but is very complicated to make in regards to technique. The success depends especially on the cooking time and oven temperature. A few degrees more and the results could lead to catastrophe. So this is best left to the professionals! There are also varieties of delicious sweet versions, with lemon or chocolate.
25) Frogs’ Legs (Cuisses de Grenouilles)
We could not end this list without mentioning another dish that worries tourists: the famous frogs’ legs. They are generally breaded or fried with a bit of onion. The meat is delicate and soft, and taste a bit like poultry.