Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

This is such a simple yet delicious dish. Tell anyone that knows what a Bouillabaisse is and that you just made it for them from scratch and they are bound to be impressed! None of this using pre-made fish stock business. We’re going to be making the fish stock from scratch to get the best results 🙂 BouillabaisseIf there’s one thing I took away from learning how to make this dish is that the type of fish you use to make the fish stock is crucial. The first time I made this soup, I mistakenly picked any fish I could find at my local supermarket that was on sale and used it to make the soup base. I ended up buying a 3 lbs Rohu which I later learned was a fish commonly eaten in Bangladesh. There’s already something wrong with this picture — Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from Marseille, France. This means the fish that was often used in the stew was from the Mediterranean Sea. This fish that I bought wasn’t even from the same continent, forget region! After doing some additional research the second time round (including watching a video from Julia Child herself in black and white!), I’ve come to learn that these are the more acceptable type of fish to be used to make the Bouillabaisse fish stock:

  • Halibut
  • Sea Eel
  • Hake
  • Whiting
  • Sole
  • Porgy
  • Striped Bass
  • Cod
  • Perch
  • Rockfish
  • Flounder
  • Grouper
  • Haddock

They didn’t have Halibut at my local fish market so I bought 1 lbs of Porgy and 1 lbs of Striped Bass instead. In Julia Child’s recipe, she asks for 3-4lbs of fish but I personally found that to be too strong of a fishy taste so I toned it down a bit and it was just right. When I made this the second time round with the right fish, it tasted amazing! Not too fishy and not too spicy (yes that’s how bad it turned out the first time round). What a difference the type of fish makes! I also served the soup alongside some freshly toasted baguette as the “croutons” and it was perfect 🙂 You can find the recipe I used for the French Baguette here.

bouillabaisse ingredients
Ingredients for the fish stock


Serves 8 people

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 cups of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp fennel
  • 1 tsp of fresh basil
  • 2 large pinches of saffron threads
  • 1/2 head of garlic, roughly smashed with the side of a knife. Leave unpeeled.
  • 10 cups of water (2 1/2 qts)
  • 1 tbsp of coarse sea salt
  • 2 lbs of fresh fish (I used Striped Bass and Porgy)
  • Other seafood of your choice. I also used 2 lbs of mussels, 1/2 lbs of prawn and 5 scallops (sliced in half)

1. Take your cleaned fish (gills and guts removed) and chop off the head, tail, and fins. Do not throw these away! Then fillet your fish and keep the meat for later in the cooking process. Have the fish carcass along with the fish trimmings ready as we prepare the fish stock.

2. In a large stock pot or french dutch oven, add your olive oil under medium heat. When the pot is hot enough, add your chopped onions and shallot. Cook until softened and translucent – about 8 minutes.

3. Once softened, add your chopped tomatoes, fennel, basil, and saffron, Cook it around a bit until the tomatoes have softened and add your fish trimmings and carcass. Add your 10 cups of water to cover your ingredients along with your smashed garlic and bring your stock up to a rapid boil. Feel free to add your salt at this point.

4. As it’s boiling, skim off the foam at the top of the soup. Turn the soup down to a slight simmer and cook for 45 minutes, checking frequently to see if the soup needs to be skimmed and stir occasionally.

5. After 45 minutes, taste the soup to see if it requires any additional seasoning and adjust accordingly. Strain the soup so that you have a relatively translucent soup stock left behind.

6. When you’re ready to cook the rest of your seafood, bring your soup back up to a boil and add your firm fish first. Since I didn’t have any firm fish, I tossed all of my seafood in there at once since they all require the same amount of cooking time. Once my mussels were cooked and they were wide open (about 6-7 minutes or so), I turned the stove off and quickly removed the seafood as to prevent it from overcooking. Serve with croutons on the side and enjoy!

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