Seafood: the staple of Provençal cuisine

Poutargue, fish soup, sea urchins, bouillabaisse... in Provence, seafood is eaten in all manner of dishes. Caught off the Mediterranean coast, fish are honoured on the region’s dinner tables and chefs have fun revisiting traditional recipes for visitors to enjoy.

Dried in the sun

Seaside speciality of the Mediterranean, the ‘poutargue’ is a pocket of dried and salted fish eggs. In Provence they feature mullet eggs, which fishermen are allowed to harvest from July to February. Some families in Martigues still work according to ancestral know-how, which requires delicate manipulation of the female fish in order to recover the egg pockets without tearing their protective membrane, and preserving the ‘pécou’ which suspends the poutargue to be dried in the sun.

Dried in the sun

Seaside speciality of the Mediterranean, the ‘poutargue’ is a pocket of dried and salted fish eggs. In Provence they feature mullet eggs, which fishermen are allowed to harvest from July to February. Some families in Martigues still work according to ancestral know-how, which requires delicate manipulation of the female fish in order to recover the egg pockets without tearing their protective membrane, and preserving the ‘pécou’ which suspends the poutargue to be dried in the sun.

Fish soup

Traditionally made from rock fish, this soup is another key dish in Provençal cooking. To enhance the flavour, it is typically accompanied by croutons spread with rouille (garlic sauce). The soup forms the basis of the famous bouillabaisse, served with whole fish and potatoes.

Sea urchins

Every creature hauled from the sea presents a feasting opportunity in Provence. During urchin season in January and February, you can taste ‘châtaignes de mer’ on the port in Carry-le-Rouet, Sausset-les-Pins and Fos-sur-Mer – while in summer, the Camargue ‘mouclades’ showcase the region’s mussels, and the scent of grilled sardines permeates the Côte Bleue during the lively ‘sardinades’.

Gourmet Bouillabaisse

A Marseille institution elevated to an art form by several local chefs, bouillabaisse is the fish-based dish. In his three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Petit Nice, chef Gérald Passédat offers a very personal version, divided into three plates to tantalise foodies. Raw shellfish and wrasse fritters, followed by fish and shellfish in a saffron broth and finally, three pieces of whole fish with a rockfish and crab soup.

A giant aquarium

Gérald Passédat has nicknamed the Mediterranean his ‘vegetable garden’, from which he draws all the main ingredients of his recipes. This giant aquarium provides the tables of Provençal restaurants with sea bream, monkfish, whiting, sea bass, crayfish, sardines and mackerel to name only a few. To await the return of fishermen, it’s best to go early in the morning to port in Marseille, La Ciotat, Martigues, Carry-le-Rouet, Cassis or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The reward is well worth the early start, we promise.