Its Provençal name, 'bouiabaisso' comes from 'bouille' which means the fish and 'abaisso', which describes the action of taking it off the heat.
Bouillabaisse is cooked differently by different cooks, and debates rage over what ingredients should be used. However, the basis of the recipe remains unchanged: fish soup, bread croutons rubbed with garlic, Rouille sauce, and pieces of fish.
The soup is made with rock fish (rainbow wrasse, sea bass, gobies, annular sea bream), the tails of congers, moray eels, crabs and slipper lobsters. The local Rouille sauce consists of mayonnaise with garlic, cayenne pepper, sea-urchin coral, bread crumbs and olive oil.
Whatever the recipe, you will never find spiny lobster, seawolf or sea bream in bouillabaisse, although some recipes include potatoes.
Be careful, because some restaurants, more interested in making money from tourists than serving up a tasty meal, offer bouillabaisse at a budget price (less than ?10). Be warned: any such bouillabaisse will only be bouillabaisse by name. Even though a high price is not always a measure of quality, an authentic and good bouillabaisse costs, on average, ?70 for two people.
To be sure you get to taste this dish at its best, do not hesitate to ask the fishermen at the open outcry market about the restaurants with which they work.
Crab, rainbow wrasse, comber, conger eel, moray eel... the ingredients used in this dish are the subject of much debate.© GRAPHICOBSESSION
A number of variations of this dish can be found in the restaurants here but there's nothing like a real 'bouillabaisse'.© GRAPHICOBSESSION
This type of fish stew has become something of an institution for the inhabitants of the Mediterranean coasts.© Heinz Leitner / 123RF
It is often served with aioli, rouille, and croutons rubbed in garlic.© GRAPHICOBSESSION
Not all versions of 'bouillabaisse' are the same, so find out from the fishermen and the locals which are the best places to try it.© lsantilli / 123RF