This is your first day in Paris, and we know you! You’ve probably started to do your research. Maybe you’ve read some blogs or watched some of Julia Child’s old TV shows. Forget everything you’ve learned, because we’re here to help you learn how to eat like the French!
Paris is renowned for its gastronomy. From family style to fancier Michelin-starred restaurants, there is plenty to choose from. If you add the cultural and geographical influence of different French regions, you may be feeling overwhelmed.
When traveling, it can be tricky to distinguish the real local food from the tourist traps. The trust is, French people rarely eat onion soup, raw steak tartare, frog legs or even escargot (snails!). Forget those stereotypes!
Everyday French food is fairly heavy, time-consuming to make and is made from simple ingredients. This is because for years, France was a poor country, and it was difficult to find expensive ingredients.
Plus, not so long ago, women were expected to be stay-at-home moms who spent their days taking care of their home and cooking. This explains why so many French meals are slow cooked and marinated, and take a very long time to complete.
If you come to Paris already in love with the idea of French cuisine, you will probably spend a lot of time in restaurants and markets. If you want to explore the world of French cooking with a French friend, stick with us. We have a half day bike tour of Paris where we see the best Parisian sites, and sample the best French food. We’ll also help you find the best restaurants where you can enjoy some amazing food!
In the meantime, here is a list of delicious meals that are easy and inexpensive to prepare, and have thrilled the taste buds of French people for decades:
1. Les galettes and crêpes
Galettes and crêpes are a specialty of Brittany, in the West of France. These savoury or sweet pancakes are to France what hotdogs are to the USA. You can find a crêpe stand almost anywhere in Paris! The savoury choice is called a galette, and the sweet option is called a crêpe. It’s among the best business plans in the world, because you can sell them at high price (especially by the Eiffel Tower) and it’s the easiest and cheapest recipe ever! If you feel like trying, go for a classic galette like the andouille sausage, or scallops and leek. Then, pamper yourself for desert with a crêpe flambée, which is made with strong alcohol like rum or calvados. Close your eyes while you eat, and we guarantee that you’ll experience love, the real one!
2. Hachis Parmentier
Overall, this meal has the reputation of being the poor people’s food, but give it a shot. It is pretty easy to cook, and this meal will fill the stomach of any starving visitor who spends all day strolling the streets of Paris. The hachis parmentier is the French version of the Irish Shepherd’s Pie and it’s made of potatoes, cheese and the less-fancy part of duck or beef minced meat, cooked in the oven and served as gratin. This French dish is a great way to survive the cold weather.
3. Quiche Lorraine
Practically every student in France has survived their University years thanks to a Quiche Lorraine diet, this dish is like the French version of pizza. Easy to cook or to buy in the supermarket, this meal is definitely more flavorful if you choose it in a restaurant. There are several different types of quiche to choose from, and the Lorraine version is made with cheese, cream and lardons, or small pieces of fatty ham. In general, this specialty is always served with green salad, which will make you feel less guilty about all of the cheese, cream and ham. Even though it looks simple and not so fancy, the Quiche Lorraine is always a smart choice.
It’s time to get serious! Cassoulet is the regional specialty of southwestern France, a place where rugby is more popular than soccer, where the wine is strong, where valleys and mountains are filled with secluded villages where the inhabitants are the most stubborn people on the planet. Their gastronomy lives up to their personality! Imagine a meal made with white beans, bacon, sausages and duck meat, cooked all together in duck fat. We present, the Cassoulet! This is a delicious and heavy meal and will really do the job of filling your stomach. This dish will also help you discover a different part of France. Keep in mind that this specialty is better eaten in winter or cold days.
5. Le ragoût de boeuf
Last but not least, this famous beef stew (ragoût de boeuf) is a meal that needs patience. Decades ago, women had plenty of time, thanks to patriarchal society. Some housewives even marinated the meat for more than 24 hours before cooking. This is one of the oldest French recipes, and is inspired from a medieval soup in which we used to simmer meat. Today, this dish is the epitome of a family meal. Even kids enjoy eating carrots and potatoes cooked for hours in red wine! The taste is strong but French people usually add some mustard (very, very spicy), just because this meal deserves a tear or two!
Now you can consider yourself an expert in French food! Of course, there is much more to discover, so we encourage you to be curious and try new things. The French have a rich and varied gastronomy, and there is plenty to taste!