Marseille

Marseille

By
Luke Nguyen
Contains
11 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742707181
Photographer
Alan Benson

As I move around France I’m constantly fascinated by how much the food scene changes. In Paris, for example, the cooking is laden with butter, but down here, along the Mediterranean sea, it’s all about silky olive oil.

I love the vibe in Marseille. It’s so laid-back, the climate is fantastic, the people have a great sense of humour, and the city is gritty, arty and deliciously multicultural. It’s a real melting pot, exotic faces and languages everywhere. The food reflects all of this — the warmth, the sea and the diversity.

Down at the bustling old port, they still sell fish the old-fashioned way. The boats come in, the fishermen throw their still-live catch onto large trays, and eager punters make their purchases from the wriggling selection of rock fish, monkfish, octopus and whatever else was scooped up in the nets that day.

My bubbly friend Georgiana meets me there and we buy a few bagfuls of whole fish to make her fish soup, which is like a traditional Marseille soup, but with dashes of her native Benin thrown in for good measure: ginger, cayenne pepper and fried zucchini. It reminds me a little of Marseille’s iconic bouillabaisse, a rustic, chunky fish stew that was once considered the food of the poor but today, because seafood is now so pricey, is an extravagant feast.

The flavours of the south are seen in staples such as pastis (an anise-flavoured spirit enjoyed as an apéritif), rouille (garlic and saffron mayonnaise) and tapenade, a spread made from puréed olives. Everything here is infused with the scent of the ocean, with fragrant herbs and with Provence itself. I’ve never tasted anything, for example, so fresh and zingy as chef Sébastien Richard’s wok-fried lamb with heirloom carrots, lemon confit, basil, olives and edible flowers. He cooks this from his cute, mobile wok cart in the edgy artists’ precinct of La Friche for passing skateboarders and graffiti artists.

Another dish from here I adore, and one that makes me feel right at home, is deep-fried salt and pepper cuttlefish. It begs to be given a Vietnamese treatment with a few chillies and a generous sprinkling of five-spice. So I do just that, cooking it outside, in the dwindling light at Vallon des Auffes, right on the water and next to piles of the traditionally made ropes the area is famed for. It’s a treasured moment of my whole time in France; this part of the city feels like a village and is filled with so much maritime history and atmosphere.

I’m lucky to have so many family members in France, and meeting my uncle Paul Sabourdy, who lives 65 kilometres out of town, is another definite highlight. Now 75, my uncle helps me piece together my complicated family history, and is also able to give me a deeper insight into French aspects of Vietnamese cuisine — the very reason I came here in the first place.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again