What is "Bouillabaisse"?
‘Bouillabaisse’ is the famous provençale soup which is strongly associated with the port city of Marseille. The word is derived from two verbs, ‘bouillir’, which means ‘to boil’, and ‘abbaisser’, which means ‘to reduce’. There are many variations, and recipes, but what is constant is this: The soup consists of a mixture of fish and shellfish, cooked in a court-bouillon, and tomatoes and saffron are essential ingredients.
As the fish and shellfish are cooked (they have different cooking times, and you don’t want them to overcook), they are removed from the ‘court-bouillon’ and kept warm. The soup is served by placing a croûte (a slice of stale, or oven-dried bread) at the bottom of each serving bowl, then some of the broth is poured over, and followed by portions of the cooked fish and shellfish. The soup is served with a peppery sauce called rouille.
The difference between bouillabaisse, and the other famous provençal soup, ‘bourride, is that a bouillabaisse contains tomatoes, shellfish, and is served with a type of sauce known as a rouille, whereas a bourride does not contain tomatoes or shellfish, and is served with aïoli, not rouille. ‘Bourride’ is also a thicker soup – this is because the egg yolks in the aïoli, some of which is stirred through the broth after the fish is removed. The remaining aïoli is served on the side. See also ‘Matelote‘.
People who are sticklers for details may quibble with my phonetic rendition of ‘bouillabaisse’ and argue that it should be ‘bwee/yah/bess’ – I would have agreed, but I have to defer to the dictionary. Any further comments would be welcomed.
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