Au revoir, Paris! Ann Mah takes us off the tourist path on a culinary tour of France's favorite regional foods.
Made from chickpea flour and olive oil, this thin, savory crêpe is best eaten hot, its blistered surface stinging your fingertips, and the crisp edges giving way to a creamy, tender center. Socca is the beloved street food of Nice, and its vendors can be spotted throughout the city, hawking it from carts attached to motorbikes, or sidewalk stands.
With its prime position on the Ligurian sea, it's no surprise that the cuisine of Nice — once a bustling port city that rivaled Genoa — has been heavily influenced by its neighbor, Italy, with sauces like pistou (in French) and pesto (in Italian), pasta like ravioli (claimed by both places), and lashings of olive oil. In fact, historians believe that socca has its origins in a similar Genoese chickpea pancake called farinata, which spread up and down the Ligurian coast.
Naturally vegan and gluten-free, socca batter is composed of just a few ingredients: chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt – and many Niçois add a liberal dusting of black pepper right before eating. Traditionally, socca cooks in a wood-burning oven, which turns it crisp and toasty, but we've also had good results using the broiler setting of a regular oven. Some Niçois cooks rake the socca's surface with a fork, which creates even more delightful crunchy bits.
Socca tastes best eaten straight from the oven, as hot as your fingers can stand – even French people, who can be sticklers about dining formality, eat it with their hands, as quickly as possible. (Cold socca is flabby and unappealing, and best avoided.) Paired with a chilled glass of rosé, this is the perfect combination for a summer cocktail hour that's almost as good as a trip to the Côte d'Azur.
This ingenious nature of socca lies in its simplicity. Stir together a handful of ingredients, add the batter to a hot oiled pan, and this crispy, savory crêpe is ready in minutes. Get the step-by-step guide to making it at home in our socca cooking lesson.
A Culinary Tour de France!
Join Kitchn and celebrated food writer Ann Mah as we take a tour of France's tastiest regions. On this trip, we're skipping Ile-de-France, home of the city of light, and celebrating the foods and flavors of Occitania, Côte d'Azur, Normandy, Brittany, and Alsace. We'll cook our way through an iconic dish from each region and explore how they've helped France earn its status as one of the gastronomic hubs of the world.