What to Eat in France: Bourride, or Provençal Fish Soup with Aioli in the Style of Sète
Bourride is the specialty of Sète, a town on the coast of the Languedoc in Provence. Sète is one of the largest fishing ports in the region. Native poet Paul Valéry called it l’île singulaire, the singular island, because it is nestled in between two salt water lakes and the sea.
Bourride is said to date back to the Phocaeans, the ancient inhabitants of Marseilles, then called Massilia.
In Provençal, it is called boulido, meaning “boiled.” It is not unlike bouillabaisse, a specialty of nearby Marseilles, the difference being that bourride is made with only white fish — monkfish tails in particular, and that it is accompanied by aioli instead of the traditional rouille served with bouillabaisse. Shellfish are never added.
My recipe is very traditional. There are many variants, but the aim of this series of articles “What to Eat in France” is to seek original or traditional recipes for traditional, regional dishes.
This dish is a sure pleaser for parties and is easy enough to cook ahead, doing everything but poaching the fish, which should be done before serving.
In the region, many locals drink rosé wine such as Coteaux-d’Aix-en-Provence with bourride, but one might just as easily pair it with a perfumed Languedoc white. There are a world of them to be discovered, but since they are not, for the most part. A.O.C., it’s difficult to recommend one in particular. It’s a matter of producer as much as place.