When it comes to food, the French are world-renowned for their regional specialties – established competitors vying for the title of “the best” among other gourmand nations. A similar struggle takes place within France’s borders, with each diverse part of the country promoting its own particular fare.
Below, check out our list of 10 regional French specialties you have to try!
We start our journey in Alsace, a region in northeastern France on the German border, and their specialty: choucroute. The base of this French regional food specialty is fermented cabbage, whose sweet taste marries perfectly with the dish’s stronger ingredients. These vary from the famous Strasbourg sausage, pulled pork or even seafood, depending on the recipe. Regardless, you cannot go wrong by pairing this dish with the local white wine: Gewürztraminer.
We then head south (but remain in the mountains!) to try raclette, a centuries-old dish traditionally consumed by shepherds and farmers in the colder climate. This mouth-watering dish, consisting of layers of melted cheese spread over an assortment of meats, potatoes and vegetables, is one of the most satisfying French regional food specialties one can find.
Lapin à la Moutarde
Next on our foodie tour is Dijon, the capital of Burgundy. This French region is most famous for its wines, but there are plenty of delicious local dishes to avoid drinking on an empty stomach! One of our favorites is lapin à la moutarde – a whole rabbit served with a white wine and mustard sauce. Although rabbit isn’t as popular in France as it once was, this dish can still be found in most brasseries and on many family dinner tables. Need we stipulate that it should be made with Dijon mustard?
While in Burgundy, we would be amiss if we didn’t mention les escargots. This special dish is a serious deal for the French, who consume upwards of 20,000 tons of this regional food specialty a year! Cooked in butter, parsley and garlic, the taste is a wonderful reward for those brave enough to try them!
Still in the north of France, our voyage now takes us to Lorraine, where we head for an iconic quiche Lorraine. This simple savory pie, filled with eggs, cream, cheese and bacon, has a creamy, cheesy center and is baked atop a flaky, warm butter crust. Good for on-the-go and as tasty served hot or cold, it’s an ideal choice for a picnic.
No trip around France would be complete without a stop in Paris, which may be the best place to try a classic Parmentier. Akin to a shepherd’s pie, it is a French casserole made with layers of mashed potatoes and beef, topped with cheese. The dish is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist who popularized potatoes in France: to drum up interest for his physically unappealing products, he stationed armed guards around the perimeter of his field, giving them the instructions to be visible but not try too hard to stop potential thieves. Local teens soon made raiding the fields a game, and, sure enough, potatoes became a staple of people’s diet. Centuries later, Parmentier is remembered fondly through one of France’s most delicious regional food specialties.
Further south, you’ll find Aquitaine – the ideal place to sample one of France’s most famous regional food specialties: oysters. The first oyster farm was installed here by imperial decree centuries ago, and the region remains reputed as the best source for the delicious maritime treat. They are eaten raw, with a squeeze of lemon juice or on rye bread, and should never be served without a fresh, crisp white wine!
Still down south, we head to one of France’s most renowned gastronomical regions: le Périgord, to savor its cassoulet – a rich stew of beans and various meats, slowly baked in goose fat in a large casserole dish. This most hearty and satisfying of French regional food specialties pairs wonderfully with the powerful, full-bodied reds the area produces.
For the final leg of our journey, we head south to the Mediterranean to explore two tasty southern treats. First off is Marseille, home to the bouillabaisse. This iconic dish is thought to have originated in Greece, but was made famous by the writings of the French novelist, Marcel Pagnol. It is a clever way for fishermen to use the local bony rock fish that they have trouble selling, and you can even incorporate shellfish and urchins. Combined with Provençal herbs and garlic, it should never be without its rouille (a traditional southern mayonnaise).
A few kilometers west lies Nice, where one of the most famous of French recipes is king: ratatouille. Popular on the Riviera, it can be enjoyed hot or cold, making it a perfect fit for lunch or dinner in any weather. Made entirely from seasonal vegetables and complete with herbs and garlic, this southern stew is a wonderful side dish for any meal.
Next time you’re in any of these French areas, don’t miss out on trying these regional specialties!