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13 Parisian foods packed with ‘je ne sais quoi’

From patisserie delights to indulgent savoury dishes – these are Paris’ unmissable eats.

Le Jambon-beurre

Turn down the toppings – a tasty sandwich without added extras.

Ham, butter and a freshly baked baguette. No frills, no fuss – just three simple ingredients. The satisfying crunch of the baguette, the slices of salty ham, the creamy butter. It’s a classic, and the go-to choice of Parisians in a hurry. Pick one up at the bakery or grab-and-go from a street vendor.

Les Escargots

Snails smothered in a golden garlic butter.

These juicy little morsels are tender in texture with a subtle, earthy flavour. Each shell is stuffed to the brim with mouthwatering garlic and parsley butter, which is melted to perfection in the oven. Drenched in this delicious mixture, bite-sized snails are usually eaten straight from their shells as an appetizer or snack.

Local tip: You’ll be given tongs and a special fork to eat these with. Don’t be shy – ask your waiter or waitress to show you how.

Beef Bourguignon

A deeply satisfying beef stew.

Thick cuts of tender, marbled beef are simmered slowly in a gently bubbling broth, with a generous glug of Burgundy red wine. Stewed with a fragrant bundle of herbs and combined with carrots, salty bacon, potatoes, golden onions, and garlic – this hearty casserole bursts with full-bodied flavour and gives off a deep, rich aroma that’s sure to set stomachs rumbling.

Local tip: The truly authentic version of this dish should be made with tender meat from the Charolais cows of the Burgundy region.

Croissants

A versatile pastry and café classic.

This flaky, buttery pastry is named after its characteristic crescent shape. Crisp and golden on the outside, soft on the inside, it’s eaten with all sorts of sweet and savoury toppings – sometimes with butter and jam, others cheese and ham, while some people just like it plain. Another variation, called a ‘pain au chocolat’, is stuffed with delicious dark chocolate.

Croque-Monsieur

The cheese and ham toastie gets an indulgent upgrade.

Salty ham is smothered in elastic gruyère cheese, oozing out from between two slices of sweetened bread. Dipped in egg and fried in butter, this tasty toastie can also arrive drenched in a velvety béchamel sauce. Top it with a lightly fried egg and it becomes a ‘Madame’, while the vegetarian version is a ‘Mademoiselle’ – but whichever the variation, it’s the ultimate comfort food choice.

Steak Tartare

Delicious steak in its rarest form.

This raw steak dish combines the highest quality beef, finely chopped, with onions and capers – though ideal ingredients vary widely. Often plated up with chips or on crunchy rye bread, it’s drizzled in a sharp, tangy dressing of mustard and Worcestershire sauce. It’s also sometimes served with a single, uncooked egg yolk sitting proudly on top.

Macarons

Colourful confections in every imaginable flavour.

These pretty meringue-like mouthfuls sit in neat rows along the patisserie counter. Perfectly round and smooth, each dainty cookie is delicately crisp on the outside with a sweet, chewy centre that melts in your mouth. Traditionally a simple, almond-flavoured treat, the famous La Maison Ladurée was the first to experiment with the original recipe, inspiring the rainbow of flavours that are so fashionable today.

Local tip: Many patisseries will let you pick and mix flavours, and may even sell just a single one for you to sample.

Paris Brest

A sweet treat celebrating France’s cycling legacy.

This wheel-shaped dessert was first whipped up in 1910 to commemorate the Paris–Brest–Paris cycle race. A delicate ring of light choux pastry, it’s crusted with toasted almonds and sprinkled with powdered sugar, while prettily piped praline cream bulges extravagantly from its middle. A fast favourite with cyclists and fans alike, it’s no longer just a race-side indulgence, and is easily picked up in the patisserie.

Crêpes

Golden pancakes, perfect for topping.

These hot, butter-browned pancakes are characteristically large and thin, providing a versatile blank canvas just waiting to be smothered and stuffed with an endless variety of ingredients. Sweet favourites include a scattering of strawberries and whipped-cream, a thick sweep of delicious Nutella or a simple sprinkling of sugar, while savoury creations include seafood, meat, vegetables, and gooey melted cheese.

Local tip: Pop into a crêperie to try these as they should be eaten – washed down with a glass of sweet cider.

Quiche

A thick, satisfying slice of savoury tart.

Savoury egg custard is poured into a crumbly shortcrust pastry case and baked to golden perfection. Usually thrown into the mix are popular additions such as bacon, cheese, onion, spinach, or tomato – in practically any combination. The result is a generous helping of rich fluffy flan, cut into delicious satisfying chunks and eaten both hot and cold.

Ratatouille

A vibrant vegetable stew that's full of flavour.

Healthy and hearty, this classic Provençale stew is a chunky medley of courgette, aubergine, tomato, red pepper, onion and garlic. Each component must be sautéed separately before being layered into a large pan with basil and tangy balsamic dressing. Usually served as a side dish, it can be accompanied by pasta, rice or bread to make a delicious vegetarian main.

Eclairs

A tasty, creamy pastry that's scoffed in seconds.

Oblong puffs of light choux pastry, topped with a thick sweep of chocolate icing and piped full of sweet custard or cream, splurging indulgently from the sides. Usually eaten for ‘le goȗter’ – a traditional french mealtime around 4pm every day – these decadent desserts are named after lightning because they always vanish in a flash.

Champagne

A splash of luxury for special occasions.

Uncorked with a loud ‘pop!’, nothing says celebration like a glass of this sparkling fizz. Despite attempts at imitation, its famous title should only be given to twice-fermented wine, made with grapes grown in the centuries-old Champagne region. A bottle from a prestigious brand can cost thousands of euros, but a glass of mid-range makes a perfect accompaniment to any amuse-bouche.

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