Bouillabaisse – An Eclectic Seafood Stew

Becky Hulbert

College English

Art Institute of California – Orange County

Professor Kenneth Frawley

May 8, 2009






Bouillabaisse – An Eclectic Seafood Stew

            Bouillabaisse is a Mediterranean seafood stew with a long uncertain history.  Its origin is topic of much debate.  Some say it was originated by the Greeks.  Others say it is an Italian dish.  Most just call it delicious.  However, no matter when and where it was created, Bouillabaisse has an interesting mix of ingredients making it the most unique of all fish soups.

            Bouillabaisse is, according to Greek legend, the dish that Venus served Vulcan, her husband, to put him to sleep while she had relations with Mars. (2009)  Kakavia, a fish soup that is said to be the basis for what is now Bouillabaisse, was introduced when the Phocaeans founded Marseilles in 600 B.C.  The Phocaeans are ancient Greeks that came from Asia Minor.

            Other folklore claims that Bouillabaisse was based on the Italian dish brodecto de li dicti pisci.  Cook books that date back to the fifteenth century suggest other origins for the stew.  The recipe exists in a number of culinary writings since; every book has its version.  Over the centuries chefs have adapted the recipe, making it what it is today.  

            Bouillabaisse is made by boiling olive oil, saffron, garlic, fennel, thyme, bay leaf, orange peel, tomatoes and onions in fish stock.  Lobster, shrimp, whiting fish, eel, angler fish, clams and mussels are added.  The ingredients, which give it its unique flavor, are simmered until the stew has reached the desired consistency.  Modern methods serve Bouillabaisse with crusty bread; though every chef has their own variation on the dish.




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