10 Classic French Food to Try in Paris
When it comes to food, Paris needs no introduction. It has been inspiring the world and tempting the world with its endless repertoire of classics. Food that is simple but requires finesse and technique! With so much to see and experience in Paris, it is only logical to spend some time focussing just on food! Our legs followed our taste buds and our taste buds had a feast! And with all the feasting we sure need to do more legwork but what is a life without an endless affair with good food! Here’s our Paris food dating guide! Flirtatious at most but we will definitely be back for more!
Escargot - garlic butter snail served on an escargot plate
1. Snails with garlic butter - Escargot
A French delicacy, escargot or snails is a popular appetiser in French cuisine. It’s believed that the modern-day recipe of escargot was invented in Burgundy during early 19th century. As the story goes, Napoleon’s steward (Tallyrand), went for a late lunch with Tsar Alexander I in Burgundy where the restaurant owner had nothing to serve! So he cooked garden snails in garlic, parsley and butter. The taste of the garlic butter snail won over the heart of the Tsar and the dish got its popularity thereafter. In this French recipe the snails are first taken out of shell and then cooked in garlic, butter and parsley and served overa toasted baguette or put back in the shell and served just like that on an escargot plate. If served like this, a special tong is used to scoop out the snail and eaten on its own or with a piece of baguette.
We tried the escargot as an appetiser at lunch with toasted baguette and enjoyed its simplicity and depth of flavour.
Duck Confit served with roasted potato
2. Duck Confit
This shining star of French cuisine is a few centuries old! The dish involves slow cooking the duck (mainly leg and thighs) in its own fat for a long period of time under low heat which turned the meat so tender that it falls from the bones and melts in your mouth. Slow cooking the cured meat in its own fat is a method used for preservation for centuries when refrigeration was not a concept. The ‘confit’ comes from the French word ‘confire’ which means ‘to preserve’.
A perfectly made duck confit involves a very lengthy cooking process where the duck meat is first dry cured with salt, paper, garlic, herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf and spices like cloves and star anise for 12 to 24 hours and then slowly cooked for another 5 to 6 hours submerged in duck fat. The dry curing step gives the dish its complex but mild aroma which is one of its main characteristics. Once slow cooked the duck can be stored in its own fat for few days before being served. While serving the duck meat is taken out of the fat and either pan fried or over baked under high heat for the skin to go crackling crispy. Traditionally duck confit is served with mashed or boiled-roasted potato or salad or puy lentils.
We ordered this French classic for lunch at a traditional French restaurant in Paris. The meat was tender, and full of layers of flavours!
Cuisses de grenouilles (Frog legs) - stir-fried in grilled and butter and served with parsley
3. Frog Legs – Cuisses de grenouilles
This French delicacy is not to be missed while touring Paris. For many, a true Parisian experience is incomplete without giving a bite into the delicately cooked frog legs. Not typically confined within the boundaries of French cuisine, frog legs are also very popular in many places in Europe, China, southeast Asia and even in Africa. However, in France the way the frog legs are cooked are no exception to the delicate cooking methods of French cuisine. Lightly tossed in flour, frog legs are fried, stir-fried, sautéed or grilled with butter, garlic and parsley and served with a dash of lemon. According to food historians frog legs came into the French kitchen during the 12th century when monks found frog as an alternative to meats during the time of Lent when they were ordered not to consume meat. Water being the natural habitat, frogs back then were counted as fish by monks and they started eating these during the days of Lent.
We ate fried frog legs which are also knows as Cuisses de grenouilles in French at a traditional French restaurant in Paris. The meat was soft and tender, mildly flavoured with butter, garlic and parsley, and very similar to chicken in texture and like chicken wings in appearance.
Grilled bone marrow served with toasted bread
4. Roasted Beef Bone Marrow
Roasted beef bone marrow is a simple starter or appetizer in French cuisine. Beef bones which used to get discarded in the past are now finding a place in the menu in many French restaurants. The bones with the marrow are either cut lengthwise or across and roasted quickly in high heat in the oven and served with sprinkling of course salt and toasted bread. The rich marrow is essentially fat which turns wobbly or jiggly quickly under head and all its intense flavours comes out. spread over the roasted bread and devoured!
We enjoyed roasted bone marrow as starter for lunch in Paris. The marrow was soft, warm and rich, and melted in your mouth.
Fresh cupped oysters
France’s love affair with oyster is centuries old and dates back to the Roman era. France being the largest producer of oysters in the world are also the highest consumer! France’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coastline produces some of the best oysters in the world which finds its way to hundreds of kitchens, restaurants and streetside carts in and around
France and beyond. The most popular and common type of oyster that gets served around the world, are cupped oysters. A fresh oyster can be easily distinguished by its slight metallic yet sweet taste which goes down amazingly well with a glass of chilled crispy white wine.
Oyster is served as starter or as a main course in most of the restaurants in France. We ordered a plate of oysters as starter during a meal. Standing to its reputation the oysters were fresh, sweet and was full of flavours from the sea!
Freshly made Jambon-Beurre from a boulangerie in Paris
6. Jambon-Beurre (French Ham Sandwich)
This simple yet famous French sandwich is an iconic staple among and beyond the boundaries of Paris and holds a very special place in the heart of Parisian gastronomy. The popularity of this mid-day snack is well demonstrated by the fact that everyday over a million of these simple sandwiches get sold every day. The name jambon-beurre comes from the use of the two ingredients that are used to fill the sandwich, jambon means ham and beurre means butter. This simple snack is made by assembling only three ingredients – a crusty baguette, unsalted or lightly salted butter and thinly sliced ham, in particular Jambon de Paris which is lightly smoked and cooked ham. Any decent boulangerie in Paris serves this sandwich from their counter, we had a bite from a boulangerie near Notre-Dame.
A bowl of classic French Onion soup
7. French Onion Soup – Soupe à l’oignon
Served as a starter in every traditional French restaurant, French onion soup is a hearty and comforting food with a rich history and tradition attached to it. A similar onion soup is believed to have existed during the Middle Ages in Europe. What started as a humble peasant dish in France slowly gained its popularity and is now one of the most famous French dishes. At the early stages of its existence the French onion soup used to be made from few simple ingredients – lard or butter, onion, dried bread and water. With time it got evolved, the water got replaced by meat stock and herbs and flour got added, but the caramelised onion remained as is, unchanged. After all these years, the perfect French onion soup still depends on how slowly the onions have been cooked on low heat to release all its sweetness and caramelised into a rich brown colour without being burnt. The main characteristic of modern-day French onion soup is the crispy baked bread which gets placed on the top of the soup and topped with a generous portion of cheese (mainly Gruyére). This then gets baked in the oven until all cheese melts!
We tried this French classic in the heart of Paris at a classic French restaurant ‘Au Pied de Cochon’. The soup was simple and hearty, with a rich flavour from the stock, sweetness of the onions and the richness of the cheese!
Rich in taste and flavourful bowl of beef Bourguignon
8. Beef Bourguignon
Arguably the most famous slow cooked hearty French beef stew! It is famous all over the world for its richness and depth of flavours. Dating back to the Middleages, the beef bourguignon started as peasant dish where tough cuts of meats were tenderised in red wine before being cooked with vegetables like carrots and potatoes and herbs. Modern-day beef bourguignon originated in the Burgundy region of France which is famous for two ingredients – rich full bodied Burgundy wine and Charolais cattle known for its tender meat. Hence, it’s not surprisingly that without these two ingredients a beef bourguignon can’t be considered an authentic one. The richness and depth of flavour of beef bourguignon comes from braising the beef in full bodied Burgundy wine, slowly stewed with other ingredients like garlic, onions, carrots and typical French bouquet herb garnish (mix of thyme, bay leaves and parsley). A perfectly cooked beef bourguignon has a rich stew with meat melts in your mouth.
We tried beef bourguignon in a traditional French restaurant in Paris, and enjoyed the complex flavours with perfectly cooked soft pieces of beef and vegetables.
Duck Foie gras, served in the form of terrine
9. Duck Foie gras terrine
Foie gras which is pronounced as fwah-grah meaning fatty liver in French. As the name suggests this dish is made from fatty liver of duck or goose where the liver is turned fatty and large in size and is somewhat controversial. Known as gavage – a process involves force feeding the bird with corn resulting in large and fatty lever. The origin of this process of force feeding can be traced back to Egypt from 2500 BC when Egyptians used to force feed the duck and goose to turn them fatty before consuming. Now in modern day France Foie gras is protected under law as gastronomical heritage of France. Since the liver is full of fats it gets softened and turns into a mousse when placed on pan over heat. This then gets transferred into terrines and refrigerated to settle. Served cold, the duck liver mousse is cut into thick slices and served with bread and some acidic fruit conserve such as plum or apricot to cut the fattiness.
We ordered Foie gras as starter for lunch in a traditional Parisian restaurant. The taste was slightly salty, creamy and buttery with somewhat intense flavour of liver and a texture of an ice cream. Due to its mousse like consistency, it was easily spreadable over a piece of bread and went down well when paired with fruit conserve.
Grilled Camembert served with toasted bread
10. Cheese – Camembert
France is considered as the centre point of the cheese universe and produces a number of delicious and famous cheese loved and consumed by cheese lovers from around the world. Among them all, Camembert is likely the most famous French cheese. Originating in Normandy in France during 18th century, Camembert used to be back in day and even today made from raw cow’s milk- Camembert de Normandie. These days however, the majority of Camembert in France is made from pasteurised milk. While the freshly made Camembert is hard and crumbly, with maturity the interior turns into a runny cheese with a rich buttery flavour. While the exterior turns into a thin hard and mouldy layer due to a white fungus. Once matured, the flavour of the cheese gets intense and pungent, more like a combination of wild mushroom and butter with a mouldy aroma. Once made, the Camembert is packed in small circular wooden boxes to ensure prevention of spillage of runny interior while the cheese matures.
Though Camembert can be eaten as it is, when mature, the best way to enjoy Camembert is by grilling it quickly with garlic and herbs like thyme or rosemary to enhance its aroma and flavour and making the interior even more soft and runny. This can then be paired with toasted bread or baguettes and a glass of full-bodied red wine. We didn’t think twice before tucking into the warm grilled Camembert during the crispy cold evenings with a sip of excellent French wine.