The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, as we research for our daily content on food trucks, food carts and street food, we stumble upon some items of knowledge that we just did not know. We have decided when these fun facts pop up, that we would share them with our readers in our section titled “Did You Know?”
For today’s Did You Know fun food facts we will look at Bouillabaisse.
The Facts: Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseilles. The French and English form bouillabaisse comes from the Provencal Occitan word bolhabaissa, a compound that consists of the two verbs bolhir (to boil) and abaissar (to reduce heat, i.e., simmer).
- The name bouillabaisse comes from the method of the preparation — the ingredients are not added all at once. The broth is first boiled then the different kinds of fish are added one by one, and each time the broth comes to a boil, the heat is lowered.
- There are at least three kinds of fish in a traditional bouillabaisse, typically scorpionfish; sea robin; and European conger; and it can also include gilt-head bream; turbot; monkfish; mullet; or silver hake. It also usually includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins, mussels; velvet crabs; spider crab or octopus. More expensive versions may add langoustine (European lobster). Vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes,celery and potatoes are simmered together with the broth and served with the fish. The broth is traditionally served with a rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper on grilled slices of bread.
- What makes a bouillabaisse different from other fish soups is the selection of Provencal herbs and spices in the broth; the use of bony local Mediterranean fish; the way the fish are added one at a time, in a certain order, and brought to a boil; and the method of serving. In Marseilles the broth is served first in a bowl containing the bread and rouille, with the seafood and vegetables served separately in another bowl or on a platter.
- December 14th is National Bouillabaisse Day.
- According to tradition, the origins of the dish date back to the time of the Phoceans, an Ancient Greek people who founded Marseille in 600 BC. Then, the population ate a simple fish stew known in Greek as ‘kakavia.’
- Something similar to Bouillabaisse also appears in Roman mythology: it is the soup that Venus fed to Vulcan.
- According to Curnonsky, there is a legend that bouillabaisse was first brought by angels to the Three Marys of the Gospel, when they were shipwrecked in the marshes between the two branches of the Rhone River near Arles.
- The dish known today as bouillabaisse was created by Marseille fishermen who wanted to make a meal when they returned to port. Rather than using the more expensive fish, they cooked the common rockfish and shellfish that they pulled up with their nets and lines, usually fish that were too bony to serve in restaurants, cooking them in a cauldron of sea water on a wood fire and seasoning them with garlic and fennel. Tomatoes were added to the recipe in the 17th century, after their introduction from America.