Word of Mouth: Bouillabaisse

Word of Mouth: Bouillabaisse

Emma Christensen
Oct 13, 2008

Bouillabaisse (buoy-ya-base), noun: A saffron-flavored fish stew from Marseille in the Provence region of France.

Possibly one of our favorite seafood dishes, a traditional bouillabaisse does have some very specific ingredients. Find out more after the jump!

According to purists, in order for a soup to be called a bouillabaisse, it absolutely must contain three elements: saffron, rascasse fish, and rouille sauce.

As we've talked about before, saffron is made from the stigmas of certain crocuses. Just a small pinch of this spice is what gives bouillabaisse its slight floral aroma and distinct orange color when mixed with the tomato base.

The rascasse fish is a kind of scorpionfish native to the Mediterranean, and how anyone thought this sharp-toothed bony-headed fish with venomous spines would make good eating is beyond us! Still, rascasse is key to getting the silky body and unique flavor in a bouillabase - or so say our purists. As far as we've seen, it's not very common in the United States, so other kinds of fish are often substituted (Shh! Don't tell!). Good substitutes are rockfish, striped bass, or sculpin, a Pacific cousin to rascasse.

And finally, we have the rouille. This is a fairly thick sauce made spicy with chili peppers and raw garlic. It can be spooned over the top of a bowl of bouillabaisse or smeared onto crusty bread, which is then dipped in the soup.

Beyond these three requirements, the sky is the limit. Bouillabase has definitely come to mean a general seafood stew that's made rich not only with white fish, but also with lobster, clams, mussels, and scallops. Traditionally, this dish is served in two courses with the broth served first with the seafood coming second, though we see it as a single course more often these days.

We've never actually attempted making a bouillabaisse at home, though we'd like to if we can find the right excuse! Have any of you?

Related: Good Fish, Bad Fish: How to Inpect Fish for Freshness

(Image: Flickr member dwizzy licensed under Creative Commons)

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