34 posts Posts by julie

The New Year in Hong Kong

We started off 2013 in Hong Kong, where we attended a cousin’s wedding and hung out with lots of family. My husband’s parents are both from Hong Kong, and many of his relatives still live there, including both his grandmas. It’s a very nostalgic place for him and his brother, because although they were both born in the US, they lived there as small children for a little while. And since they continued to return frequently throughout their lives, they’ve accumulated a lot of memories there over time.

After we were married, I was lucky to get to join in these family reunions. We try to go back every couple of years, but when my husband’s generation was younger, they would actually have family reunions there every year!

For me, Hong Kong is both foreign and familiar because, while I am Cantonese, neither I nor my parents had ever been to Hong Kong (or China) until we were adults.

On the one hand, if you’ve been to Hong Kong, you know it is very culturally distinct. It’s an incredibly fast-paced, efficient, pressure-filled life. If you don’t have the right change getting onto the bus, you may very well be publicly reprimanded by the bus driver and shunned by the rest of the people behind you in line. People are always keeping up with the latest fashion, technology, even slang terms. I think I’m more of the French-influenced, people-watching, coffee-sipping, Vietnamese type who spend their idle hours contemplating life… or the next meal.

At the same time, although my family is from Vietnam, we’ve retained a lot of our Cantonese heritage. (I speak Cantonese at home, but my Vietnamese is pretty non-existent beyond pho, banh mi, and other necessities.) So to be in Hong Kong and understand everyone around me is quite a novelty. I do have some family ties there as well — my great-grandfather moved there late in life, and my father lived there part-time for a decade when he was studying for his doctorate. I also spent about a month in Hong Kong with my dad when I was a grad student and pretty much did every touristy thing there is to do in the city.

The place has really grown on me over time. One of the things that I find endearing about Hong Kong is the almost cartoon-like feel of the city. Amidst the hulking mountains, forest of concrete highrises, and people scrambling in their 2-hour-long commutes to work, you can actually find really cute, sometimes even comical things. Like the little red taxi cabs (Hong Kongers love bright colors) and green and yellow minibuses weaving through the narrow, hilly streets as if people were driving off to summer camp. And the double-decker buses that seem like they should be filled with tourists but are actually filled with commuters — some of whom may be eating gai dan zai (waffle-like egg balls that’s common street food there). I also love the enormous banyan trees that line the streets, their aerial roots like an old Hong Kong grandfather’s whiskers draping over people as they pass. It’s the perfect image of the city to me.

Above all, if anything makes me feel at home in Hong Kong, it’s definitely the food. I think Cantonese food is just as much a part of my childhood as Vietnamese. Until I visited Hong Kong, I didn’t realize that some of the dishes I grew up eating were in fact eaten somewhere other than our home. And as my visits to Hong Kong increased after getting married, my husband and I have developed a list of personal must-eats each time we go. Some of these are very particular to us. For example, we’re not huge dim sum people, so unless we’re going out with others, we don’t really have a hankering for dim sum (it’s something much better experienced in large groups anyhow). But anyone going to Hong Kong for the first time should definitely have dim sum.

Here are some of the things we do make sure to get when we’re in Hong Kong…

Custard tarts. Preferably of the flaky crust kind, which seemed to be less common this trip. Someone told me it’s because the shortbread crust is easier and less time-consuming to make. My husband and I unabashedly consume on average one per day in Hong Kong. For us, it’s like making sure to eat gelato every day in Italy. Little E had his first custard tart this trip and, much to our shock, did not like them. We tried over and over, even giving him just the custard part, but he would just spit it out. I’m not sure whose genes he got there!

Coconut bun. A visit to a Hong Kong bakery is a must, and my other favorite thing to get there (besides custard tart) is the coconut bun or gai mei bao (this literally translates to “chicken butt bun,” and is also known alternatively in English as a “cocktail bun”), which is a long sweet, sesame-flecked bun filled with shredded coconut.

Toast with condensed milk. We’ve extolled the virtues of this delicacy here before, but let me just say this must be experienced in Hong Kong, where they serve it on extra thick pillowy bread. It’s usually available at a cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style teahouse), as well as at the ubiquitous chain Cafe de Coral, which incidentally serves a decent version of most of the things on this list.

Wonton noodle soup. Good wontons, with properly cooked noodles, are tougher to find than you may think. I’ve been spoiled with my dad’s wonton noodle soup, and I’m sad to say that I’ve had many an inferior one, especially around Tsim Sha Tsui! More on Hong Kong wonton noodle soup in a separate post.

Fish ball noodle soup, with fish skin chips. There used to be a place on Cheung Chau island where my dad and I were regulars, and the lady knew our order as soon as we stepped foot in the door. But alas, they changed ownership, and it’s no longer what it used to be. But this dish is still commonly found around the city, and whenever I get it I make sure to also order some crispy fish skin chips. Some people like to dunk it into the soup, but I like it just as is.

Beef chow fun. These are wide rice noodles stir-fried with beef in a dark soy sauce. The good kind will have a nice charred taste from being stir-fried in a hot wok. We had a great one this trip that I’ll share more about later.

Singaporean rice noodles. No Singaporean friend of mine will claim this dish, and true enough, it didn’t show up on a single menu when I visited Singapore. This is a purely Cantonese, Hong Kong thing. The dish is made of stir-fried vermicelli noodles with curry powder and soy sauce. For me, stir-fried rice noodle dishes are comfort food because my dad often made them at home, and this is one of my default meals in Hong Kong.

Salt-and-pepper-fried anything. Oftentimes it’s salt and pepper prawns, squid, or crab. It’s so simple, but I just love the smoky flavor created by stir-frying basic salt and pepper. And then all the crispy garlic, onion, and leftover fried up bits that you can mix into your rice… that’s the best part.

Roast and cured meats. Roast meats, collectively known as siu mei, are what you commonly find hanging in the windows of Chinatowns around the world. The crispy roast pork is my favorite, but roast duck, goose, or barbecued cha siu pork are the other typical offerings. Yung Kee is particularly famous for its roast goose. But what I love even more than roast meat is cured meats, collectively known as lap mei. There’s the popular lap cheung (Chinese sausage), yeun cheung (duck liver sausage), and my favorite of all, lap ngap (cured duck). Usually these are sold dry at markets for preparation at home, but sometimes you can order them as a dish at a restaurant. You can also find cured meats in claypot rice…

Claypot rice. Also known as bo jai fan, this is rice slowly cooked in a clay pot over fire, so that the bottom becomes charred. My favorite topping to get is lap mei, which comes with Chinese sausages. The best part is the crispy layer of rice on the bottom. Some people like to add water to soften it up a bit, but I like it crunchy.

White-cut chicken. Although grouped in with other siu mei, or roasted meats, both white-cut chicken (which is poached) and soy-sauce chicken (boiled in a marinade) are the only meats not roasted. I do love my poached chicken, and my very favorite place to eat it is Hong Kong. When my dad lived in Hong Kong, he would come home raving about the chicken there and how it had so much more chicken taste! Indeed, I think a lot of chicken you get in Hong Kong seems to be more of the jow dei kind — that is, free-range, but it’s really more out of preference for their taste than ethical practices. The birds are scrawnier, with denser meat and, yes, have more chicken taste. During the month I spent in Hong Kong with my dad, sometimes we would just have white-cut chicken for days in a row. I am also a sucker for the ginger scallion dipping sauce and will also eat it mixed into my rice.

Mango desserts and drinks. There’s a specific place to get this, and that’s Hui Lau Shan, which has locations all over. I like to get the mango and coconut drink.

Food on a stick. This is especially popular around the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok. I’m a fan of intestines, so that’s always my go-to. But you can also get less adventurous things, like fish balls.

Congee. Especially with pork offal! If that’s not your thing, pork and preserved egg is a classic. But if that’s not your thing either, there’s usually something more tame, like beef. And don’t forget the fried Chinese crullers to dunk into the congee.

Seafood. Whether it’s just simple clams in black bean sauce, salt and pepper stir-fried shrimp, or an elaborate seafood feast in Sai Kung (which I’ve never been to, but which my sister tells me is quite an experience), you’ll find a huge variety of super fresh seafood in Hong Kong. In Asia, fresh seafood means live seafood. At places like Sai Kung, you can pick your seafood from the local fishermen and then bring it to a restaurant to have them cook it up. There are also typhoon shelters that famously serve up crab, including this one where you can eat on the boat. That’s something we hope to try some day, but on this trip, it was a mini seafood fest on Cheung Chau island that I’ll share more about later.

Hong Kong “Western” food. After all those years of colonial rule, a certain type of “Western” food has developed in Hong Kong. Things like macaroni soup with ham, egg sandwiches with the crusts cut off, baked pork chop over rice covered in tomato sauce and cheese. Go to any cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style teahouse) and you’ll see a huge variety of both Cantonese and Hong Kong-style Western food.

Milk tea. By which I do not mean the stuff with tapioca balls you drink with a straw. This is black tea with either condensed milk or evaporated milk, and it is known for being very smooth due to the traditional use of sackcloth bags to filter the tea leaves. You can also get it yeen yeung (“yin yang”), which is a combination of coffee and milk tea.

Wedding banquet food. A Hong Kong friend once told me that I should try to get invited to a Hong Kong wedding banquet because it is a cultural experience in itself. Well, that is just what happened on this trip. (My husband and I actually held a small wedding banquet here for family and friends shortly after we were married, but in typical wedding fashion, I barely remember any of it.) (Also, keep in mind, depending on how you feel about the ethical practices in procuring some of these ingredients, the Hong Kong wedding banquet experience may or may not sound that appealing to you.) There are a couple standard wedding courses, including the opening cold appetizer of roasted suckling pig. In the past, it was served with other cold meats, including strips of chewy jelly fish tossed in sesame oil and sesame seeds (this entire cold-cut platter might just be my favorite dish of the whole banquet). But apparently these days it’s popular to do just a simple roasted suckling pig for each table — and the servers all come marching in to music with a platter in hand. I’m told that sometimes the pigs even have flashing eyes! Just another comical Hong Kong moment. Other common wedding courses include crab claws and shark’s fin soup. This time, we also had swallows’ nest over vegetables.

I always forget how much I miss Cantonese food until I go to Hong Kong. You would think that living in Beijing now I would have much more access to these dishes, or that I’d be tired of Chinese food in general… But I very early on realized how drastically different northern Chinese food is from southern Chinese food. And I think when it comes to food you grew up with, it just never gets old.

Much more from our recent travels to come.

Provencal Specialties in Nice

For my last post on France, I want to share with you some Provençal dishes we tried.

We actually didn’t have too much luck finding good Provençal food while we were in Provence (we probably weren’t looking in the right places). Ironically, it wasn’t until we got to Nice (technically part of La Côte d’Azur rather than Provence) that we finally got to sample some pretty great Provençal specialties.

It was almost luck that brought us to Le Safari in Nice’s Cours Saleya — the long strip in the center of the old town that serves as a marketplace in the mornings and a square and extended terrace to the bordering (mostly overpriced) cafés the rest of the time. It was drizzly and cold in Nice that day, and we were rather tired, uninspired, and unmotivated in terms of where we should eat. So we turned to our guidebook (lately I’ve been preferring Fodor’s over Lonely Planet) and found an affordable option that came well recommended. Despite the hokey-sounding name, this nevertheless turned out to be a classy restaurant serving up some excellent food. And in cold weather, the terraces are also covered and heated, so that made dinner extra cozy.

We knew we had to order daube when we saw it written on the chalkboard menu. This is a classic Provençal beef stew braised with red wine and vegetables. This version was deep and rich and flavorful and served over a bed of beautifully made ravioli.

We also had tripes nicoise — tender cooked tripe with carrots and potatoes in a tomato-based sauce. (This was a bit tomatoey for me, and I could’ve used some pasta to go with it.)

There was actually a lot of Italian food in Nice, being so close to the border. This scallop risotto we ordered was perfect — the scallops just barely cooked, and the risotto creamy but still retaining plenty of bite to it. All this sat in a sea of, if I remember correctly, fresh pea sauce, which helped offset the richness with a brighter flavor.

But the highlight, I think, was the gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce. This was the pillowiest gnocchi ever, coated in luscious gorgonzola cream. We savored every bite!

I felt especially grateful to have had such a good meal on our second-to-last night in France, despite this area being rather touristy. In fact, when we defaulted to this neighborhood again for our last meal the next night, we ended up having rather lackluster renditions of salade niçoise, ratatouille, pasta, and a few other unmemorable dishes.

We did, however, sample socca a couple times while in Nice, where this chickpea flour crêpe originates. Once was at the morning market, where the socca was softer and more crêpe-like. And once at a restaurant, where the socca was denser, thicker, and more cakelike. This specialty seems to have a number of variations, one of which is more crispy from a more authentic wood-fire cooking method.

Here is the socca that topped the Provençal sampler plate on our last night in France. I have a feeling it is not so authentic of a socca, but I really have not had enough socca to say.

And so, friends, that is how it all went down in France. If you’ve been following along, thanks for making it through to the end! I know I have been so backlogged on travel posts, and since I’m still learning my way around Beijing, cooking these days has been more figuring out what I can do with where I happen to have gotten groceries on a given week. I’ll have to share more about that process.

What’s next: I hope to have a couple recipes for you and, as I mentioned, some updates on what it’s like to live and cook and eat in Beijing. I also have much to share with you about my trip to Saigon back in September. And in three days, we’ll be heading to Seoul! It’s a much-needed vacation for my husband after a tough month of work (and he had not gone to Saigon with us, so he is definitely in need of a vacay). Be back soon!

Le Safari
1 cours Saleya
Old Town / Port
Phone: 04-93-80-18-44

For more posts on France, see…
Eating in Paris
Not Eating in Paris
The Bastille Quarter
Bistrot Paul Bert
Markets (Paris)
Oh, the Cheeses We Ate
Aix-en-Provence
Markets (Provence)
(La Vraie) Bouillabaisse in Marseille

Yunnanese Cuisine and Mint Salad

I really hadn’t heard of Yunnanese food until I came to Beijing, where it is incredibly trendy these days. It seems like I’m always learning about yet another Yunnanese restaurant around town. But I’m definitely not complaining — Yunnanese food has quickly become one of my favorite types of Chinese cuisine.

Yunnan (云南 or 雲南) is a region in southern China that borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, and its food reflects some of the influence of these neighboring countries. (Ok, now you understand why I am biased toward this cuisine. :) Also influential are the many ethnic minority groups — more than in any other region in China — who live there. Yunnan is also a mountainous region with more temperate weather, so it has diverse plant life and is rich in natural resources. In fact, this is where the fictional paradise Shangri-La is supposedly located.

I hope to give more details on some of my favorite Yunnanese restaurants around Beijing in the future, but here I just wanted to highlight some of the characteristics of Yunnanese food. I think, like me, you’ll quickly find that it is very different from the Chinese food we’ve come to know abroad!

One of the features of Yunnanese cuisine is the use of the province’s variety of mushrooms that come in beautiful, strange, and intriguing shapes. (Even the controversial Chinese truffle can be found in this region.) They are used in soups, stir-fries, salads, and stews. You can find a helpful guide to Yunnanese mushrooms over at Saveur.

Like Vietnamese cuisine, Yunnanese food makes use of fresh herbs, even some of the same ones like fish mint! There are herb salads, like the one I share below, and sometimes the herbs come fried and crispy in a stir-fried dish, similar to the fried basil you might be familiar with in some Thai dishes.

You can find flowers in Yunnanese cuisine…

… as well as bugs! Often it’s bees and worms. We sampled some at the Yunnanese provincial restaurant in Beijing and concluded that they mostly just tasted crunchy. As you can see, the dish here mainly consists of a huge pile of bugs. Maybe it might be a bit more interesting if the bugs were incorporated better into a fuller dish?

A little more tasty is Yunnan’s famous dry-cured ham made with salt from the region. It is often used in stir-fries and also lends a nice, deep flavor to soups.

I also noticed rice noodles make an appearance in Yunnanese food, which for me is a nice change from the wheat noodles up here in the north. Here is Yunnan’s famous crossing-the-bridge noodles, which is a noodle soup supposedly named for how a wife delivered the dish to her husband. Traditionally, it is served with all the components on separate dishes, and the noodle bowl is composed at the table, so that everything tastes as fresh as possible. Legend has it this serving method came about when the wife realized the dish would taste fresher when assembled on the spot, after crossing the bridge to deliver lunch to her husband.

If you are a cheese lover, like I am, you will love the goat cheese that is one of the specialties of Yunnanese cuisine. It is most popularly served fried and resembles haloumi.

These are just some of the characteristics I’ve noticed about Yunnanese food from some of the restaurants in Beijing. I can’t believe this regional cuisine has not caught on yet in the US the way Sichuanese or Cantonese has. I really think it could become as popular as it has here in China, especially since it features more fresh produce and is lighter than some other Chinese foods. If you live Stateside and are curious about this cuisine, there does seem to be a couple Yunnanese restaurants in the more heavily Chinese-populated cities in the US. I have not had a chance to try these, but those in New York might want to check out Yunnan Kitchen, and those in southern California may want to try Yunkun Garden or Yunnan Garden in Monterey Park and San Gabriel — and then you’ll have to tell me what you think!

If you don’t live somewhere where Yunnanese food is available, here is a super easy dish you can try at home that will give you a taste of Yunnanese flavors. I have yet to visit Yunnan myself, so this is just an approximation of the mint salads I’ve had at various Yunnanese restaurants about town. I am thoroughly intrigued by this cuisine, so you can be sure to hear more about it here in the future!

Mint Salad
Serves 2-4 as a side dish

Don’t be shy with the dressing in this herb salad. The mint can get overpowering, so the key is to make sure the leaves all get coated, even drenched, in the tangy dressing. As with many Southeast Asian salads, you can tell it’s been well dressed when you can see a pool of dressing at the bottom. :)

2 cups (packed) mint, or one large bunch
1 clove garlic
1 Thai bird chili
2 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
a pinch sugar
1/4–1/2 tsp chili oil
a few drops sesame oil

1. Wash and spin dry the mint leaves. You’ll want to leave the mint leaves on the stem, which is edible and has some of that minty flavor. This will help give the salad some heft. But if there are any particularly thick and tough stems, go ahead and pick the leaves off, but try to keep the leaves in clusters.

2. Pound the garlic and chili with a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic and slice the chili with a knife.

3. Mix the garlic and chili with the remaining ingredients.

4. Toss the mint leaves well in the dressing, making sure that the leaves are well coated.

5. Plate the leaves and pour any leftover dressing over top.

Provence: (La Vraie) Bouillabaisse in Marseille

During our week in southern France this past spring, we took a day trip to Marseille.

I was hoping to take more of a laid-back approach in Provence, since we’d packed a lot of things into the Paris portion of our trip, so I’d only done minimal preparation to find out what the market days were in some of the cities we wanted to visit. In fact, I even decided to leave my camera at home the day we went to Marseille (which, of course, I immediately regretted; photos here courtesy of my cell phone) because I thought I’d just enjoy a leisurely day in the Mediterranean. When lunchtime rolled around, however, I really wish I’d done just a little more planning. But it all worked out in the end.

It was the first time in Marseille for my husband, my cousin, and me, and one of the things we were looking forward to was trying the town’s famous bouillabaisse. (Personally, I would’ve been more excited about the sea urchin street parties that Marseille is also known for, but we had just missed the tail end of that season.)

Now, the origins of bouillabaisse are slightly controversial. Traditionally, people attribute the origins of the dish to poor fishermen, who made it out of leftover scraps from the day’s catch, as this recent NPR story relates. However, a few skeptics believe this to be simply a romantic notion, as pointed out by Traveler’s Lunchbox, and that bouillabaisse has always been a dish of the elite, given the price and quality of the ingredients, including saffron and no less than four to six types of fish, many of which found only in the Mediterranean.

And then there are those who say the dish originated from the goddess Venus, who made it to lull her husband, Vulcan, to sleep so that she could seduce Mars.

Whichever camp you belong to, suffice it to say that bouillabaisse is a fish stew cooked in a saffron broth, and it is native to Marseille (or Marseille via ancient Greece if you subscribe to the last theory).

In true French fashion, chefs in Marseille drew up a charter stipulating just how many (at least four) and what approved types of fish may be included in a proper bouillabaisse. These include John Dory, monkfish, conger eel, and the indispensable, ever-elusive, untranslatable rascasse (which some call scorpionfish). Purists argue that a proper bouillabaisse can only be had in the Mediterranean because it must include fresh fish found only in this region.

Other requirements of a proper bouillabaisse: saffron, fennel, tomatoes, a saffron aïoli called rouille… and apparently a hefty price tag.

That last part was what made me wish I had done a little more research. But I think even if I had, it wouldn’t have made too much difference. Because, as the aforementioned NPR story reports, bouillabaisse has become a high-class tourist meal costing upwards of 45€.

The preparation is involved, so many restaurants require a 24- to 48-hour reservation in advance and will only make it for groups of two or more people. Well, since we didn’t have any reservations, it seemed our only options were the tourist traps surrounding the pier, which have their bouillabaisse at the ready, or just to forgo the whole thing altogether.

Fortunately, one of said tourist traps surrounding the pier seemed to be among the few acknowledged restaurants serving la vraie bouillabaisse: Le Miramar. Since it was approved by our guidebook, as well as by Traveler’s Lunchbox in her Marseille post, after some discussion we agreed that after coming all the way here, maybe we ought not to pass up a vraie bouillabaisse experience at a place that at least came well recommended and did not require advance reservation.

It was not until much later that I learned that Le Miramar supposedly serves a very reputable bouillabaisse. The restaurant, in fact, was one of the original signers of the the aforementioned “bouillabaisse charter” (of course this whole production can also be seen as a marketing ploy in itself). Le Miramar is also the recipient of a Michelin star, and the restaurant has quite literally become synonymous with bouillabaisse: If you go to www.bouillabaisse.com you will be redirected to the restaurant website. :)

Our meal started out with some complimentary small plates, including what I thought was crackers and deli meat of some sort, but actually turned out to be a flatbread with thinly shaved truffle slices. My cousin then realized that that was what she had been smelling as soon as the waitress set this in front of her. My previous encounters with truffles have only been in oil form, so it was interesting to try the actual truffle here. It was less earthy and more fishy than I expected, but it was not unpleasant. I’d need more truffle experience to figure out exactly how I feel about it. :)

Also served early is the rouille, a garlicky mayonnaise infused with saffron. I’ve found that I’m not a huge fan of saffron, but I really loved this rouille. The saffron flavor was not overpowering but just enough to perfume the spread, which was wonderfully garlicky. And in case it wasn’t garlicky enough for anyone, there was also raw garlic on the side you could rub on the croutons. This was meant to be eaten with the bouillabaisse but was also good on its own.

The bouillabaisse itself comes in two courses. First, the soup arrives — a rich, saffron-infused, thick seafood stew. Le Miramar is known for also using pastis, a liquorice-y Provençal apéritif, in their bouillabaisse. I didn’t realize or detect this at the time, so if it was there it must have been subtle. If I remember correctly, the soup was just a tad overly salty for me, but it was very flavorful and filling.

I was starting to get stuffed after the starters and the soup, but that was really just the beginning of the meal. The highlight is the second course, which consists of the various fish and shellfish that went into the bouillabaisse. Some restaurants will bring all this out on a platter and cut the fish at the table for you. At Le Miramar, they bring you a platter beforehand to show you all the ingredients of the stew and then take it back to prepare. The fish and shellfish are then presented to you in more stew. I think it can be assumed that you didn’t get the exact ingredients seen in the platter (and definitely not in that amount) in your actual dish, but you do get the full variety.

What did we all think of la vraie bouillabaisse? Well, two out of three of us ordered it (and only because the menu says bouillabaisse must be prepared for a minimum of two people, though we later saw other tables with only one order), but we all tried it, and we all agreed that while it was fine, we probably would not order it again, especially at that price.

No doubt the bouillabaisse was prepared with good ingredients and was well done. I enjoyed trying the different types of fish — some of them quite firm fleshed, and others more delicate. The soup was very rich and filling — even too much so for me. Neither my cousin nor I came even close to finishing our meals. The dish felt quite heavy to me, and I had to give most of it to my husband. My favorite part of the meal was actually the rouille, the saffron garlic mayo.

My husband had ordered le grand aïoli, and we all actually loved this dish much more than the bouillabaisse. Le grand aïoli is another traditional Provençal specialty featuring the garlic mayonnaise it is named for, poached cod, and blanched crudités (vegetables). I enjoyed this dish for being better balanced and better portioned. Every component stood well on its own but also complemented everything else. The cod was perfect, the broth flavorful, the aïoli creamy and spicy with garlic, and the vegetables just barely cooked so that they retained their crisp.

Apparently, another tradition surrounding bouillabaisse is la sieste, because who can do anything after all that food? (You can understand now how Vulcan lapsed into a bouillabaisse-induced coma while Venus traipsed off with Mars.) We took part in this tradition without even being aware of it. Here is the square where we rested after our bouillabaisse feast.

After recovering from our meal, we drove around the Azure Coast, as the French call the Mediterranean, stopping to see coves and walk along the shores.

In the end, my experience of bouillabaisse in Marseille did feel slightly more like an obligation than a highlight. The mystique surrounding the whole thing just comes across as a bit contrived to me, but maybe if we had gone to a less touristy spot we would’ve had a more heartfelt experience. If you enjoy hearty stews and seafood, you may very well love bouillabaisse. In that case, I would suggest doing a little planning to find a good restaurant recommendation and then calling in your order in advance. But should you ever find yourself in Marseille without a restaurant reservation, Le Miramar is conveniently located along the Vieux Port and serves a solid, albeit pricey, bouillabaisse without requiring advance notice. They also serve an excellent grand aïoli, which is what I would order if I went back.

Le Miramar
12 quai du Port
Vieux Port, Marseille
Phone: 04-91-91-10-40

Check out Traveler’s Lunchbox’s  “7 Reasons You Should Go to Marseille” for more recommendations.

For more posts on France, see…
Eating in Paris
Not Eating in Paris
The Bastille Quarter
Bistrot Paul Bert
Markets (Paris)
Oh, the Cheeses We Ate
Markets (Provence)
Aix-en-Provence
Provençal Specialties in Nice