French food may be the most emblematic aspect of French culture. Indeed, French cuisine is one of the best in the world and was even registered as an expression of intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO.
French gastronomy is known for its refine and delicate taste. I swear, if you go eating in one of these 3 stars French restaurants, just a single bite will take you straight to the moon (and your wallet straight to hell…).
Anyway, many people believe French food is so luxurious and sophisticated that it’s impossible to prepare it at home. You’d be surprised, but many French recipes are surprisingly simple as well, and it’s not as hard as you would think to reproduce them at home.
So if you want to live a life with no regrets, here’s a top 10 French dishes to discover before you die. Bon appétit !
10 French food you must try
1 – Tartiflette
The tartiflette is a specialty from the region Savoie near the Alps. It’s composed of potatoes, lardons, melted reblochon (a French cheese) and onion, and usually accompanied by a good green salad. A simple but delicious meal that is appreciated at any time of the year, in winter (in the evening after a long day of skiing) as in summer.
In October 2014, the tartiflette obtained a Label Rouge (red label) which is a sign of quality assurance in France as defined by French law. But in order to be certified Label Rouge, the cheese reblochon must be the only cheese of the dish, organic, and constitute at least 20% of the recipe’s ingredients. In addition, the dish must be baked in the oven.
2 – Boeuf Bourguignon
Here’s a great classic of traditional French cuisine: boeuf bourguignon is a gourmet dish which is perfect for family meals for example. It’s a dish stewed in red wine with fresh root vegetables (mushrooms, boiled potatoes, carrots, green beans…). Seriously, talking about French specialties and traditional French food without mentioning the boeuf bourguignon is just not allowed.
It’s a very old dish which was apparently served by peasants during feast days, before becoming a traditional Sunday dish. I really like it not only for its taste (obviously), but also because it comes from the region Bourgogne which is where my grandparents come from!
3 – Soupe à l’oignon
The onion soup in France is a traditional meal which brings together iconic ingredients of French cuisine: chicken stock, bone marrow, melted onion, bread (so French!), cheese ; and it’s so good!
Legend has it that onion soup was invented by the king Louis XV, one night when he only had onions, butter and champagne, which he cooked together, giving birth to this delicious dish. I don’t believe it at all, but anyway…
Over time, onion soup, which was consumed primarily by low-income households, made its appearance in weddings until becoming a real institution that some would never like to miss. The tradition is that once the bride and groom have gone to bed, some guests come to wake them in the middle of their night to make them taste an onion soup served in a chamber pot. The purpose is to spend a convivial moment with the guests after a busy day.
4 – Cassoulet
This is definitely not the lightest dish you will find in France. Originating from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, this dish is composed of white beans stewed slowly with meats, typically pork or duck but also sausages, goose, mutton or whatever else the chef has around. Consumed for centuries by peasant families, French people cook it today to reunite their families. It is the ideal dish to eat during cold winter days.
The cassoulet takes its name from the pot in which it is traditionally cooked: la cassole.
5 – Bouillabaisse
If you like fish, this French food is for you! The bouillabaisse is a full-bodied soup, typical of the region of Marseille. The fishermen are numerous in this area, this dish is logically composed of various fish, shells, tomatoes, southern aromatics, mustard and egg yolks. It is eaten with bread croutons often garlicky and with rouille spread, whole fish, and potatoes.
6 – Ratatouille
This one is another major French dish internationally known. It’s a traditional culinary specialty of the region of Nice and Provence. It’s not just a simple mix of vegetables done in haste as some people might think. No, the choice of the vegetables, their freshness, the addition of aromatic herbs, the quality of the olive oil, and of course the cooking are all important here.
The ratatouille can be eaten cold or hot, and is usually served as a side dish of meat or fish. However, it can also be served as a main dish alone, then accompanied by rice, potato, or bread.
There are basically two ways to cook it: cooking all the vegetables together, or separately and layered into the baking dish
7 – Quiche Lorraine
Let’s travel to the region of Lorraine to discover the original recipe. The quiche Lorraine is, according to the Lorraine tradition, a tart garnished with cream, milk, eggs, nutmeg and grilled lardon. These ingredients give it a smoky flavor, loved all over France.
Today, quiche Lorraine has become so popular that it’s possible to find it in a bakery or restaurant, in a more modern version: with mushrooms, leeks, chicken. The name apparently comes from the German word “Kuchen” (cake) or the French Lorraine dialect “Küchen”.
8 – Crêpe
Crepes are the Breton specialty par excellence. Accompanied by a fresh glass of cider, they are eaten salty (buckwheat crepe) or sweet for dessert. The crepe is a symbol of French food acclaimed by foreign tourists.
Even though the traditional toppings are ham / cheese / egg and andouille (cold cuts) or onion, the menus have grown bigger and become more and more innovative. If you are in Paris, the best crêperies of the capital are in the Montparnasse Tower area!
9 – Coq au vin
The coq au vin is pure magic: first of all because it’s the symbol of France, the rooster. A strong and robust animal, but which reveals all its delicacy when it’s simmering in the other great French symbol: the wine. A good red wine from Bourgogne will reveal all its flavors and sweetness after a long cooking.
It’s generally accompanied of onions, garlic, lardons, a bouquet garni (herbs), carrots and mushrooms. It’s often served with steamed potatoes or fresh pasta. Even though it’s traditionally cooked with red wine, some people prefer using white wine: to each his own!
10 – Cuisses de grenouilles
It was impossible for me to end this article on another dish than the one that worries tourists the most: the famous frog legs. Indeed, English people, who are not particularly fond of those, used to make fun of French people by making cartoons representing Frenchmen eating frogs, and hence calling them more or less affectionately “Frogs or Froggies”.
They are usually breaded or fried with a bit of onion. The flesh is delicate and the taste similar to that of poultry but chewy at the same time, which is delicious! So you see? It’s really nothing to make a fuss about.