Gastronomy : 7 specialities to enjoy in Marseille

Marseille’s gastronomy has nothing to envy to other regions of France. From traditional fish dishes to fresh vegetable soups, from Provençal caviar to small orange blossom pastries, the culinary specialities are legend in the city of Marseille. They are sure to delight the taste buds of every visitor.

1. Bouillabaisse, the iconic fish soup

Once a traditional fishermen’s dish, bouillabaisse is one of the timeless dishes of Marseille’s cuisine. This fish-based recipe combines the flavours of the open sea with spices (salt, pepper, saffron, fennel, garlic, etc.). Where does this name come from? Quite simply because when the stock boils, the heat must be lowered so that the fish cooks… “when it boils (bouille), we lower it (a baisse)”.

As a general rule, this preparation is served in two separate dishes: on one side, the fish, on the other, the broth on the stove. This arrangement can vary depending on the guest: some prefer to mix the whole recipe in a soup plate, others prefer to separate the dishes. Whatever the case, the most important thing is to cut up the fish in front of the guests. In addition, there are rouille or aioli sauces to accompany the seafood and croutons rubbed with garlic for dipping in the broth.

2. Anchoïade, the iodine taste of the Mediterranean sea in every bite

Anchoïade is a typical Provençal recipe prepared with anchovies, capers, olive oil and garlic. Traditionally pounded in a mortar, this speciality is a variant of the Nice pissaladière or tapenade. It is usually eaten as an aperitif on slices of bread, in a salad or in an Occitan fondue (hot or cold) where the raw vegetable sticks are dipped in the preparation.

The first official appearance of anchoïade in a recipe book dates back to 1899 with the publication of the culinary work Cuisinière provençale by the chef Jean-Baptiste Reboul.


3. Les pieds paquets, or offal in the spotlight

According to legend, the origin of the pieds paquets (or feet and packages) goes back to the creation of the Phocaean city, 2600 years ago. Gyptis, a Celto-Ligurian princess, chose Protis, a Phocaean captain who had just arrived, as her husband. As a token of love, she offered him a cup of wine, rolled lamb pansies stuffed with meat and fragrant herbs. This dish was then considered to be the ancestor of the Marseilles parcels, to which lamb’s feet were later added. In reality, the recipe for pieds paquets was created by Louis Ginouvès, a chef in the Pomme district of Marseille, in 1880.

An atypical speciality of Marseille, pieds paquets are mainly cooked in autumn and winter. This dish is traditionally made up of lamb offal (bellies and feet). Each piece of belly is stuffed with lean pork, garlic and chopped parsley. The lamb’s feet must be white and hairy before being put on the flame for the crunch.

4. Pistou soup, an ode to summer vegetables

A Mediterranean speciality, pistou soup consists of summer vegetables, pasta and pistou – a crushed mixture of garlic, olive oil and basil. The pasta cooked in the broth is thick, like small striped whistles or cut spaghetti. It is in the broth in question that the pistou is diluted during the service to bring an additional flavour.

Similar to the pesto of Ligurian cuisine, pistou does not contain pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino. The term pistou in Provençal refers to the pestle of the mortar used to make the preparation.

5. Poutargue (bottarga), the inimitable Provençal caviar

Also known as boutargue, poutargue – meaning “salted and dried fish eggs” – is a luxury dish comparable to the caviar appreciated in Provence. It consists of salted and dried mullet roe and is eaten as an aperitif, grated on lightly buttered toast and cut into thin strips. Nowadays, mullet is overfished, which has made poutargue an extremely popular premium product.

6. Aïoli, the gourmet touch to many dishes

Aïoli is a sauce made from a garlic and olive oil emulsion and is very common in the Mediterranean region. Its origins date back to the Roman Empire and ancient Egypt, as well as to the ancient origins of olive oil in the Mediterranean basin.

Aïoli is prepared in a mortar in which garlic is crushed with olive oil and an egg yolk. It is used as a condiment for boiled fish, snails, potatoes, etc. Aïoli also goes well with the vegetables that accompany typical Provencal dishes. It is served in many restaurants in Marseille to spice up dishes.

7. The tender and nostalgic Marseille navette

Founded in 1781 by Mr Aveyrous, navettesare Provençal biscuits traditionally prepared for Candlemas instead of pancakes, especially in Marseille. Their shape evokes that of a small boat: some believe that this shape symbolises the boat that brought the Holy Marys to the Provencal coast, while others consider it to evoke fertility.

Originally, the navettes were flavoured with orange blossom water, but nowadays various spices are used to accompany them. Many supermarkets sell navettes that are quite different from the original recipe, more like a shortbread, in the shape of a boat, but smaller in size. There are two establishments in Marseille where the real Navettes Marseillaises are made. Le Four des Navettes next to the Abbaye Saint-Victor and the Navettes des Accoules in the historic Panier district.

Marseille, a gourmet city

Marseille is full of gastronomic specialities to discover! Discover all the traditional Marseille and Provencal dishes to try during your stay in the city.