Did you know that up until 2016 there were 22 regions of metropolitan France? That’s not even counting the 5 overseas regions under French rule. In 2016 there was a large scale territorial reform to better adapt to the modern economy, which meant some regions were combined to make new ones. The outcome was 13 regions within metropolitan France as well as the additional 5 overseas.
It's not news to anyone how famous France is for its culture of fine food and wine, and so today we want to take a look at some of the most iconic meals for each region. Of course, it would be naïve to label them the ‘best’ dish of each region, as there are so many unique and diverse dishes that we cannot decisively name one the winner! However, this list certainly serves as a great start in showing the wonderful gastronomy this country has to offer. Buckle up and get ready to lick your lips at the cuisine to follow.
The 13 regions of the French Mainland
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (previously Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes.)
Potée auvergnate is a hearty stew made with pork belly, ham hocks, sausages, potatoes, cabbage, and leeks. This dish is a classic example of the rustic, comforting cuisine of the Auvergne region and is typically enjoyed during the colder months.
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (previously Burgundy and Franche-Comté)
Coq au Vin
One of the most iconic dishes native to the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France is "coq au vin". This classic dish consists of chicken braised in red wine, bacon, mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and is typically served with boiled potatoes or a crusty bread. The Burgundy region is known for its rich, full-bodied red wines and flavourful dishes made with fresh local ingredients.
The Galettes Bretonne is a thin, crepe-like pancakes made from buckwheat flour, salt, water, and sometimes milk. They are typically savoury and filled with ingredients such as cheese, eggs, ham, and mushrooms, and served as a main dish. Another iconic dish from Brittany is "croustillant de sarrasin", which is savoury turnover often comprised of ingredients such as ham and cheese or cream cheese and salmon.
Centre-Val de Loire
Râble de lièvre à la royale".
The star of this dish is a saddle of hare (râble) that is marinated in red wine, garlic, and herbs, and then braised until tender. The braising liquid is then thickened to create a rich, flavorful sauce that is served over the hare. Voila!
Figatelli is a type of spicy sausage made from pork liver and flavored with herbs and spices, such as rosemary and red pepper. It is typically grilled or fried and served as a main dish or snack, and is often paired with other Corsican specialties such as brocciu cheese and chestnuts.
Grand Est (previously Alsace, Champagne-Ardennes and Lorraine)
Choucroute garnie is a dish of sauerkraut (choucroute) that is then topped with an assortment of cured meats, such as ham, sausages, and bacon, and sometimes potatoes. These hearty flavors are classics of the Alsace region! We mention this dish in our post on the Strasbourg christmas markets as well.
Hauts-de-France (Previously Nord, Pas-de-Calais and Picardie)
One of the most famous dishes from the Hauts-de-France region of France is "potjevleesh". Potjevleesh is a traditional dish made from finely minced raw pork mixed with eggs and spices, then molded into a jelly-like texture and cooked in a broth. It is typically served cold, sliced and garnished with gherkins and mustard.
Escargots de Bourgogne
You have probably heard of this one! Escargots de Bourgogne are snails cooked in garlic butter and served in their shells as an appetizer. This region of France, encompassing the famous city of Paris, is widely considered to be of the greatest culinary regions of France with a particular focus for fine dining! This starter is an example of very uniquely French flavours, and is most closely associated with Burgundy.
Normandie (Previously Upper and Lower Normandy)
Our first dessert on the list is here and it is fabulous. Tarte Tatin is an upside-down caramelized apple tart that is made by cooking sliced apples in caramel and then covering them with a layer of puff pastry. The dish is baked until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender, then inverted onto a serving platter to reveal the caramelized fruit on top. This is such a classic delight, and one that anyone who likes apple pies or similar dessert will be super excited to try!
Nouvelle-Aquitaine (Previously Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes)
One of the most famous dishes from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France is "duck confit". Duck confit is made by cooking duck legs in their own fat until they are tender. The legs are then stored in the fat, which helps to preserve them and add flavor. To serve, the legs are heated in a pan and then served with a variety of accompaniments, such as roasted potatoes or a mixed green salad.
Occitanie (Previously Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées)
Cassoulet is a stew made with white beans, and meats such as as duck, pork sausage, and mutton, and garden vegetables such as carrots, onions, and garlic. The ingredients are slowly simmered in a casserole dish until they have melded together. Cassoulet is often served as a main course and is a staple dish in the cuisine of the southwestern part of France.
Pays de la Loire
Plateau de fruits de mer
Those who love maritime dishes will appreciate this one! One of the most famous dishes from the Pays de la Loire region of France is "plateau de fruits de mer". Plateau de fruits de mer, or much more simply, ‘seafood platter’, is a dish consisting of a variety of freshly caught seafood, such as oysters, clams, lobster, and shrimp, arranged on a large platter or tray. The seafood is usually served raw or lightly cooked and is accompanied by condiments, such as lemon wedges and a sauce vierge (a sauce made with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs). The Pays de la Loire region is located on the Atlantic coast of France and so has abundant seafood resources and is perfectly located for quality seafood dishes.
I’m sure you’ve watched the Disney film, but Ratatouille has been famous throughout France since long ago. Ratatouille is a vegetable stew made with a mixture of eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic. The ingredients are often presented in a spiraling pattern of overlaid slices of vegetable. Ratatouille is often served as a main course or as a side dish, and is a staple of the cuisine of the southeastern part of France.
The 5 overseas regions
These overseas regions are located in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, and are overseas departments and territories of France, meaning they are an integral part of the French Republic and enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as mainland France. They have a unique cultural and culinary heritage, reflecting the blend of French and African, Indian, and Creole influences.
Dombrés, known as dombwé in Guadeloupe Creole, are tiny meat dumplings cooked in stew and flavoured with various vegetables and spices. The dumplings are created from tiny balls of cooked flour to which a sauce is added and then a meat or meat substitute of choice, ranging from crab, red beans, pork, chicken, etc. The dish is thought to have its roots in the cuisine of West Africans who were brought to Guadeloupe to work on sugar plantations, and has since evolved as it is passed down generations. It reflects the islands long history and the its cultural heritage of Caribbean, African, and French influence.
Colombo de Porc
The most famous dish from the Martinique region of France is "Colombo de Porc," a spicy stew made with pork, vegetables, and spices such as turmeric and cumin.
"Rougail Saucisse," is a dish made with spicy sausages simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, and spices, often served with rice. The simplicity of the recipe and ingredients along with how warming and hearty the dish is, has made this a staple of Guyanese cuisine!
This dish, distinctive of La Reunion, can most be likened to a chicken curry. It is made with chicken, vegetables, and spiced with turmeric, cumin, and coriander.
Langouste à la Vanille
This final dish is a very interesting flavour combination! The chosen dish of the Mayotte region is "Langouste à la Vanille.” This is made up of a lobster, typically steamed or boiled, that is then served with a creamy vanilla sauce. Though said sauce varies a little from recipe to recipe, it generally is made with ingredients such as butter, heavy cream, white wine, vanilla beans or extract, and varied seasonings. For many this may seem an unlikely combination but this dish is considered a delicacy and is often served in upscale restaurants. The combination of sweet vanilla with the rich flavor of lobster creates a unique and luxurious dining experience, and represents the unique palette and dynamic cooking style of the Mayotte region.
Well if you've made it this far then you can proudly say that you are now at least somewhat knowledgeable on the subject of French cuisine! Of course, photos only serve to make the mouth water. To taste and smell these decadent flavors, or at least those on the mainland of France, have a look at our 2023/2024 tour offerings, which go through a large number of the regions listed above and will certainly provide opportunities to try these wonders!
Until next time, Bisous!