Planning a trip to France? If so, you’re undoubtedly looking forward to some really amazing food. The whole concept of gourmet cooking — haute cuisine, to be correct — originates in France. The ingenious methods, the elegant sauces, and the artistry of French chefs are known all over the world.
But if you’re interested in some really adventurous dining, try the food features that locals love. These are the dishes that regular French people have been eating for centuries.
Most of them are made from things that wealthier people tossed out, so you might want to eat first and ask questions later!
Table of Contents
- Traditional French Cuisine to Try
- 1. Bulots
- 2. Squab: The French Pigeon Dish
- 3. Langue de Boeuf Fumée: Beef Tongue
- 4. Tete de Veau: Calf’s Head
- 5. Ris de Veau: Sweetbread
- 6. Tripes
- 7. Pieds de Cochon: Pig’s Feet
- 8. Fromage de Tete: Head Cheese
- 9. Boudin Noir: Blood Sausage
- 10. Andouillette
- 11. Raclette
- 12. Tartiflette
- 13. Coq au Vin
- Why You Should Try Authentic French Cooking
Traditional French Cuisine to Try
Here are several cook guides to some classic foods to try on your French culinary adventure.
Let’s start out easy.
You can buy bulots from street vendors in Paris and all the seaside towns in France. Everybody has their own recipe for cooking them, and they’re all delicious. You have to work the little bulot out of its pretty shell with a special little pick.
They taste a lot like clams, and they’re really fun to eat even as a light meal. Served with a bit of lemon juice and some iced water on a hot summer day, you’ll have yourself a refreshing and satisfying piece of French cuisine.
2. Squab: The French Pigeon Dish
Another not-too-scary dish that makes our top 13 is the pigeon, which does not taste like chicken. The meat is rich and dark, with a delicate texture and an earthy flavor that makes it really special.
And who knows?
You might already have eaten pigeon meat — in the U.S. it’s called squab.
If you want to venture into a pigeon recipe at home, there are actually plenty of ways to cook and season your bird. All you need is the pigeon breasts, some olive oil, and some flavors like cumin, garlic, and pepper. Prepare the oven for this one as roasting is better than frying the meat in the frying pan.
See Related: House a Go-Go Is Worth the Stop!
3. Langue de Boeuf Fumée: Beef Tongue
Here’s one that you might not find in the cooking guides at home: translated, this is smoked ox tongue. Tongue is cooked in all kinds of ways all over the world. If you’ve already tried it barbequed or in a taco, you know how good it is.
The flavor is very much like a lesser cut of beef, but the texture is much smoother — and in the right hands, ox tongue can be so tender and sweet that it absolutely melts in your mouth.
You can get some incredibly fancy variations on this simple dish, including a luxurious Langue Lucullus at Benoit in Paris, where it’s stuffed with foie gras.
4. Tete de Veau: Calf’s Head
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere; especially if young pigeons didn’t scare you off. Tete de Veau is a seriously traditional dish. It’s made from parts of a calf’s head, boiled down, and composed into a single piece.
Tete de Veau is a little bit fatty and definitely gelatinous. The jelly-like texture and odd flavor might take a little getting used to — your best bet is to try it with a good sauce. It’s pictured here paired with a Gribiche sauce, based on eggs, which is a great choice.
5. Ris de Veau: Sweetbread
Ris de Veau is made from the pancreas of a calf — in English-speaking countries, it’s called sweetbreads. The taste is very mild and a little like bacon and the texture is absolutely silky and reminiscent of scallops. If you’re going to try the organ meats, this is the place to start.
This is an ancient recipe that has (somehow) survived from Roman times. You should definitely try it as it is an experience like no other, but do yourself a favor and don’t overdo your research beforehand or you may be scared off.
Tripes (in English, tripe) is an animal stomach. In France, it’s most often veal belly. Soft and tender, tripes can be quite delicious, especially along with a big serving of boiled potatoes.
For obvious reasons, make sure your tripes is coming out of a pristine kitchen, prepared by a really competent chef – you’ll easily find this dish at French restaurants.
7. Pieds de Cochon: Pig’s Feet
The pork-eating world has voted, and the decision is unanimous — there’s just about no part of a pig that isn’t scrumptious.
As proof, try some Pieds de Cochon (pig’s feet) while you’re in France. They’re a little bit greasy and gelatinous, but let’s face it — so is bacon. And they’re also fatty, porky, and totally yummy.
The rich flavor is a lot like a ham hock, and like ham hocks, they make a great addition to soups and stews. They are often served in recipes with vegetables like green beans and red wine.
8. Fromage de Tete: Head Cheese
Fromage de Tete is head cheese, and you may have run into it before if there’s a good deli near your home.
Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s made from various goodies in and around the head of a cow. Fromage de Tete is awesome.
The texture is kind of wobbly, like a really firm Jello. It smells a bit like high-quality bologna — and tastes like a rich, spicy ham. Get past the odd texture and you’re in for a real treat.
9. Boudin Noir: Blood Sausage
Boudin Noir is either blood sausage or blood pudding. The great British chefs might be reminded of something similar, and in France, it’s generally made with pork blood.
To hold it together, they add lots of other ingredients — most commonly onions, bacon or fatback, apples, parsley, egg, cream, and seasonings.
You’ll often find Boudin Noir served up on a plate with cooked apple and diced potato cooked with onion. This is a dish you’ll either love or hate. The texture is dense and somewhat gritty, and the flavor is rich and spicy with a strongly metallic aftertaste.
If you want to start an argument in France, ask two locals what they think of Andouillette. This controversial little sausage is another one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes.
It’s made from tripe and chitterlings (intestines), usually either pork or veal. If you’ve eaten and enjoyed chitterlings, give Andouillette a try.
The flavor is strong and earthy — and, like chitterlings, there’s a certain amount of smell involved in the preparation and consumption of Andouillettes.
Definitely an acquired taste, and certainly not for everyone.
See Related: Potato Soup: A Traveleering Staple
This dish has to be one of the best features of French cuisine – especially for anyone who loves cheese. Raclette is a special type of cheese that is melted under high heat and used to smother, well, just about anything.
The most common foods to eat along with Raclette cheese are boiled potatoes with various meats, usually ham. Mix it all together, put a nice scoop of cheese on it, and you’ve got a forkful of happiness.
Personally, I call raclette one of the seasonal recipes in France as I’d say it’s a dish most satisfying on a cold winter day.
However, the French disagree with me and see no reason why you can’t eat it year-round. This could be an especially attractive recipe for those who don’t want to try head cheese or young pigeon!
Here is one of the many related recipes to the above racelette – it’s called Tartiflette. This is a bowl of boiled potatoes, lardons, onions, and often some white wine.
Tartiflette is enjoyed more like a caserolle, eaten out of a bowl that was already filled with the ingredients; while raclette is more hands-on and customizable as you go.
Tartiflette is a wonderful après-ski dish and this is why you’ll find it served at the ski lodges of the Alpes and Aosta Valley. It is warm and refreshing when you are ready to rest after the slopes.
See Related: Weird Food Combinations That Are Strangely Good
13. Coq au Vin
This is a true classic just about anywhere in France. Literally ‘rooster with wine’, a chicken is braised slowly on medium heat in red wine and some brandy.
Mixed with vegetables, some butter, and a bit of salt, the combination yields a wonderfully flavored sauce.
While strange birds and calf’s head may scare you, this creation of French cooking should be a relatively safe haven to serve.
And while we may not be so used to cooking with different types of alcohol at home, it is very common all over France. After all, who doesn’t love a good serving of chicken?
Why You Should Try Authentic French Cooking
You might not have the stomach for all these foods, but try as many as you can! There’s no better way to get to know a country than by eating its traditional dishes — you’ll have some wonderful memories to bring home with you, and the chances are you’ll remember most of them as delicious.
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