If regional French dishes from the South of France were films, the bouillabaisse would be the Oscar-winning blockbuster while its equally-attractive and engrossing younger sister, the bourride, would be the indie smash hit – popular amongst the cool kids and those who are disenchanted with the ‘status quo’.
With various incarnations – the Bourride de Baudroie (Monkfish Stew) or Bourride Sètoise hails from not one, but two (!!) southern French regions: Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence. Yet bourride has, historically, particular roots in the port town and seaside resort of Sète (say bonjour to the Venice of Southern France!). Surrounded by the Thau Lagoon, which is home to an abundance of oyster and mussel-beds, the town (supported by its network of canals) is an ideal base for fishing and the exportation of delicious seafood!
Bourride acts as a unique representation of Languedoc’s regional identity – with its specific regional ingredients imbuing it with a distinct ‘individual character’ (Ripe 1996) when compared with the more famous Provençal bouillabaisse which is strongly tied to Marseille. Indeed, bourride exclusively uses fresh monkfish from the region and is significantly less complicated and expensive than bouillabaisse which requires an assortment of fish and more preparation.
Bourride (recipe here!) is, at heart, a fish stew cooked with vegetables and white fish, whilst being distinctly thickened with aioli and egg yolks. The first reference to this stew was presented in Jean-Baptiste Reboul’s La Cuisinière Provençale’ in 1897. However, the traditional incarnation from Sète features fish stock and filleted monkfish with vegetables and garlic. Aioli, herbs and toasted bread are then added to complete the dish and add flavour. Today, the version that has spread throughout greater Languedoc and Provence often features saffron or white wine.
Emphasising French cuisine’s ability to interweave both ‘luxurious and humble’ dishes (Davis 2011), bourride’s place in history is as, above all, a workingman’s dish. Unlike bouillbaisse, which has succeeded in transcending the boundaries of humble and haute cuisine, bourride remains firmly rooted in its peasant origins.
Owing to its distinct regionalism, bourride has yet to impact Australian shores. Yet according to a Languedoc local myth, when the Greek Gods got bored with Olympus they specifically came to the South of France to eat bourride as it was so delicious. Well, if it’s Zeus-approved…tout est possible!
Bon appetit! 🙂