10 seafood to know and order in France
I didn’t grow up eating seafood. My family ate the occasional fish fingers and the occasional shrimp cocktail, but that was about it.
Then I married someone who loves seafood, and now we live part of the year in France, where seafood is surprising. I eat a lot of it, but at first I found the French menus confusing because there are so many different words for seafood. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was reading about a fish or a poultry!
Now that I can navigate the menus, let me share what I learned. Here are ten popular types of seafood you are likely to come across in France. Most will be familiar to you, but if there’s something new to you, consider the adventure of trying it out – you might find it delicious!
winkles / Winkles (aka sea snails)
I don’t see these little sea snails a lot in the USA, but they are common in France. I love them as part of the Provencal specialty the great aioli, where you dip them in a rich garlic mayonnaise. Like regular snails, you need a special little trick to get them out of their shells.
Squid / Squid
Squid is very popular and is served in all sorts of ways: sautéed, grilled, baked, stuffed, fried and put into seafood stews. Ink is sometimes used in pasta dishes, as is done in Italy. A small variety of squid is the chipiron and another is the squid, which is usually stuffed with meat or vegetables.
Scallops / St. Jacques shells
In France, they are often served with the small orange magpie (foot) attached, which is good to eat. You will usually see scallops stir-fried or served in stews.
Shrimp / Shrimp
French prawns come in different sizes and colors. There are the small and tasty Gray shrimp (grey shrimps), the slightly larger ones pink shrimp (pink shrimp) found in cocktails, and the super format king prawns (word borrowed from Spanish.)
I once ordered a starter from king prawns— large whole prawns that I peeled and then dipped in homemade mayonnaise. But there were so many that I had a hard time finishing them, and then my main course arrived! I definitely skipped dessert that day.
Crayfish / Crayfish
Although not technically seafood, as they are freshwater animals, crayfish are often on the menu of restaurants that serve seafood. crayfish looks like a mini lobster and the tail is usually split, so it’s easy to remove the sweet flesh.
Oysters / Oysters
France loves its oysters, which are farmed along the Atlantic coast, the best being the Gillardeau specials. And the French are clear on one important point: nothing goes better with oysters than Champagne!
Molds / Molds
When it’s hot, nothing better than eating fried mussels in a cafe by the sea. Fried mussels– steamed mussels with fries – can be prepared in different ways, with steamed mussels with white wine, or tomatoes, or curry, or whatever. Try them all!
Octopus / Octopus
Octopus comes in different sizes, ranging from around four ounces to over four pounds, and they are cooked in all kinds of ways – grilled, fried, braised, baked and stuffed. I like a salad with grilled meats Octopus at the top.
Cuttlefish / Cuttlefish
It is a cousin of squid, and often served the same way. But I think it’s better, it’s more tender and tastier. A smaller variety of cuttlefish is called squid.
Tellines / Small Clams
The standard clam is called the pallor, but I prefer these colorful little clams called tellines. You will find them served all along the Mediterranean coast of France, and they are usually served in a parsley—a sauce of butter, garlic and parsley.
Keith Van Sickle divides his time between Provence and California. He is the author of the recently published book An insider’s guide to Provence and bestsellers One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are we still French? Read more on Provencal life.