French Food 101: A List of Foods You Must Try During Your Trip
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Known for its flavor and finesse, the French cuisine constantly ranks in the top three food cultures in the world.
If French food isn’t something you are familiar with yet, head to Paris – or anywhere else in France – and take some lessons from the old-fashioned locals who all believe in the importance of good food.
Between two-hour lunches and three-courses meals, we assure you that you’d still have time to check out the gorgeous architecture and do some sightseeing, too! After all, you have to burn those calories somehow!
Croissants are now a part of most brunches across the world. We can find macarons in plenty of places nowadays and it’s likely that you’ve had Salade Niçoise at least once in your life.
That said, the French cuisine is much more than just the staples that have made it across the world. However, no one cooks them like the French.
To help you immerse in the local dishes, in this article, we are sharing a list of French foods that you simply must enjoy while in France.
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Soupe à l’oignon
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Dating back to Roman times, this hearty traditional French soup is made of onions and beef stock. Soupe à l’oignon (onions soup) is usually served with croutons and melted gruyere cheese on top.
The version served nowadays all over France dates to the 18th century. It was easy to make and utilized stale bread, avoiding food waste.
Its unique flavor is given by the caramelization of onions in a slow-cooking process, which also includes a bit of alcohol.
Don’t worry if you don’t eat meat. There are versions that use vegetable stock!
Photo credit: Patrick Janicek via Flickr
Wondering what you should have for breakfast in France? Why not have some fresh and warm crepes?
Often enjoyed as a breakfast item or an afternoon snack, this dish is the perfect way to start the day before you go out exploring.
Tracing their origin to the Celtic region of Bretagne, today you can easily get crepes at every corner in French cities and they are a must if you visit Paris.
This super-thin pancake is served with various delicious options – both sweet and savory.
And while Nutella or jam fillings are popular, we advise you to try something else, such as the chestnut spread.
If you prefer the savory option – which goes by the name of “galettes” or simply “crêpe salée”- you want to have them for lunch or dinner. They come with a variety of fillings, but the traditional one is cheese, egg, and ham.
Whichever you decide to try, it’s sure to keep your stomach happy and your taste buds satisfied!
Macarons are colorful & delicious cookie-like dessert made from sugar, egg whites, ground almonds, and food coloring. For those of you who are gluten-free, you’d be delighted to hear that this is more than ‘safe’ to eat!
The origin of the French macaron can be traced back to the French Revolution when two nuns baked them to sustained themselves. But their macarons didn’t have any fillings.
Nowadays, these sweet meringue-based confections come in a vast variety of flavors and fillings including lemon, chocolate, coffee, orange, raspberry, and many more.
They make a great edible souvenir to bring back for your loved ones! For some of the best tasting macarons in Paris, head on over to the world-famous Ladurée – the ones responsible for adding the filling - or Pierre Hermé – that created National Macaron Day, celebrated on March 20.
»Still unsure whether to plan a trip to France or not? Here are the reasons Why You Should Go on a Culinary Vacation in France.
Confit de canard
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Your trip to France would be incomplete if you haven’t had at least a serving of Confit de canard (duck confit).
One of the most popular French dishes, its origins are from the province of Gascony and it consists of a whole duck cooked in its own fat. The meat is specially prepared using a slow-cooking process as a method of preservation – which is exactly what confit means!
It is usually served with a side of Pommes Sarladaise, which are slow roasted potatoes with garlic and fat.
The dish is popular all over the country but make sure to head to Gascony to indulge in the best versions!
Photo credit: Susan Lucas Hoffman via Flickr
Of Belgian origin, steak frites is now a signature French dish that you should try when you visit.
As the name suggests, this dish consists of steak served with golden French fries.
The stake is beef and the French prefer it tender. And for contrast, they love the fries extra crispy!
This is a popular dish found in restaurants and brasseries all over the country. But eating it in Paris will make for an extra special experience.
You may choose from various cuts of steak – including filet minion, which is typically the most expensive on the menu – and also pick how it would be cooked – from almost raw to well-done.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte continues to be the best place in Paris to eat steak frites. First, you get a green salad with walnuts and then extra-tender beef accompanied by a secret sauce and amazing fries.
Baba au Rhum
Photo credit: Tangopaso
Having origins in Eastern Europe, Baba au Rhum (Rum Baba) is one of the oldest and most celebrated dessert recipes found in the French cuisine.
The base has its origins in “babka” cake which has been made in Eastern Europe for centuries. According to legend, when King Stanislaus was exiled from Poland to the French town of Lorraine, he created Rum Baba from the existing Gugelhupf cakes.
He didn’t use rum though. Instead, he used a Hungarian wine, although this information differs a bit depending on the sources.
The desert made it to Versailles when Stanislaus’ daughter married King Louis XV. Her pastry chef – Stohrer - added rum for the first time and he later even opened a pastry shop in Paris.
Nowadays, the small yeast case is saturated in syrup made with rum. Sometimes it is filled with whipped cream or pastry cream.
And if this sounds familiar, you should know that the savarin is slightly different. The mold has a hole in the middle, and it is always served with chantilly cream (whipped cream infused with vanilla).
Interested in having a serving or two of Rum Baba? Be sure to make a pit stop at Patisserie Stohrer, the oldest bakery in Paris, established in 1730.
Of course, a quintessential French food should make it to the list, especially since it’s now a breakfast staple all over the world.
But did you know that the French croissant isn’t …French? Its origins can be traced back to the Ottoman siege of Vienna (13th century).
The bakers working through the night heard the sounds of Turks trying to tunnel underneath the walls of Vienna and altered the city’s defenders. King John III of Poland arrived just in time to defeat the Ottomans.
The bakers, wanting to celebrate the victory, created the kipferl, which means “crescent” and symbolizes the crescent moon on the Turkish flag.
It made its way to France in 1770 when Austrian-born Marie-Antoinette married the future Louis XVI. She felt homesick and the royal bakers decided to bake kipferl for her and promptly renamed it croissant.
In case you have yet to have a bite of this scrumptious pastry, it makes a great breakfast to have along with a cup of coffee.
The most popular version of the croissant, other than plain, is one that is filled with chocolate known as Pain Au Chocolate (bread with chocolate). That said, you can opt for a variety of customized fillings that are often made from scratch.
You can grab one or two on the go and enjoy this tasty snack on your walk through the city but make sure to stop at Boulangerie Schou, which still serves a kipferl croissant.
Are you more of an adventurous type when it comes to food? Paris – or France, in general -, offers plenty of ‘strange’ foods that you may not be able to get back home. Escargot is one of those examples.
Though it may not be for everyone, it is a very popular dish in France and can easily be found in the menus of most Parisian restaurants.
It consists of snails that are cooked in butter, garlic, and parsley. The result is tender snail meat immersed in finger-licking sauce that will spoil your taste buds!
And if you are wondering how come snails have become food staples, they’ve been eaten for thousands of years. They were easy to gather and come with their own serving platter (their shell). Plus, they are easy to cultivate and are packed with nutrients.
Photo credit: Kurtis Garbutt via Flickr
Hungry for a quick yet hearty and savory meal? A Croque Monsieur is calling your name!
This legendary dish was born in Paris at the brasserie on Boulevard des Capucines in 1901. Having run out of baguettes, the bistro owner Michel Lunarca decided to make a crusty sandwich with pain de mie (which is a simple bread loaf), cheese, and ham.
It is, therefore, the French version of the toastie! Though it may sound simple, the taste is anything but.
It makes a great satisfying lunch or a heavy snack, especially when you have a particularly busy day and don’t have much time. But if you are fond of eggs, you can also opt for the Croque-Madame, which is essentially the same sandwich with a poached egg on top.
Photo credit: Katrin Gilger via Flickr
Delicious and refreshing, Salade Niçoise is a typical French dish from Provence.
It can be served as a main dish, but it is also common to order it as a side dish to accompany fish or meat.
Respecting the Provencal gastronomy, the salad is seasoned with basil, olive oil, and garlic. It features French beans, tomatoes, black olives, capers, and anchovies. Regional varieties might include boiled eggs, potatoes, canned tuna, or lettuce.
This dish is popular for lunch during the hot summer days.
For a particularly authentic experience, make sure to enjoy Salade Niçoise in Nice, on Côte d’Azur.
Other than its delicious cuisine, France is also renowned for producing some of the world’s finest wines. So while you’re there, why not join a wine holiday in France?