While most foreigners won't go beyond a rump steak or a hamburger when it comes to eating beef, the French will pretty much eat every part of a cow, bar the hide, and what's more they'll call it a delicacy.
French chef Iman Bogen says we need to open our eyes and mouths to some of France's more stomach-churning delicacies.
“When I first tried snails (escargots) as a kid, I never wanted to taste them again. But once I tried them with garlic and parsley butter, I loved them and was addicted,” he said.
Here's a list of 14 French delicacies that many Anglos can't stomach (while others are positively obsessed with them) and why we should give them a try.
Langue de boeuf
The thought of putting a cow's tongue in your mouth may seem revolting, but Bogen says the trick to cooking and eating cow's tongue is to disguise the fact that it is in fact a tongue.
“Often the shape can put people off so you should cut the tongue into nice thin slices and it will really melt in your mouth,” the chef says.
Photo: Charles Haynes
Rabbit used to be quite a common dish in the UK until they made the film Watership Down. Then it just didn’t seem right to eat cute bunnies anymore. But the tradition lives on in France and Bogen says there are steps to take to get past this psychological barrier.
“Make sure you buy it without the head,” he says. “Rabbit has a strong taste but it’s a lot like chicken. The traditional way is to have it with a mustard sauce, but don’t overcook it or it'll be too tough.”
Photo: Dominique Aribert
Udders are another part of the cow’s body that perhaps suffer from an image problem. When it comes to persuading Anglos of the merits of getting your knife and fork into them, “You just have to open yourself up to new experiences,” says Bogen. “And remember it's very good for you.”
So next time you’re in a restaurant in Paris and about to order a croque monsieur or a cheeseburger, why not live a little and go for 'an udder' option?
They're hugely popular in France, where 80 million pairs are gobbled up every year. You can fry them, boil them, sautée them.. in fact you can eat them almost any way you like and they taste like a kind of chickeny fish.
In fact, they're pretty delicious – you just need to overcome any initial squeamishness.
Ris de veau
This is often translated as 'sweetbread' but ris de veau is basically the culinary name for calf’s pancreas. Doesn’t sound too appetizing to you?
“Sear it in plenty of flour and butter and enjoy it with some mushrooms. It has a really nutty flavour,” says Bogen. Not convinced? Washing it down with a decent bottle of Burgundy might make eating a cow's pancreas slightly more appealing.
Photo: Le journal de maman
There’s not much love for pigeons in general and even less enthusiasm when it comes to the thought of eating them. But in France the tradition of eating game birds goes back centuries and it needs to be kept alive, says Bogen.
“There’s nothing better than stuffing a bit of foie gras in a pigeon or quail and eating it with some wild mushrooms in winter,” he says.
Photo: Charles Haynes
While many Anglos wouldn’t even feed tripe to their pets, the French have long had a stomach for eating, well, stomach. Bogen says we should remember that eating edible offal from farm animals is good for your health, because of the high content of the protein collagen.
“People are usually afraid of what it is but when you cook it for a long time on a low heat with a bouquets-garnier and white wine, it’s fantastic.”
Photo: Huang Yong
Snails, the most famed French delicacy beside frogs' legs, are another of those things you wouldn't usually imagine on your dinner plate.
So why should you eat them (besides for the experience, of course)? Well they're delicious as an appetizer, and they're also virtually fat-free, sugar-free, and carb-free. Thank us later.
Photo: Hafiz Issadeen/Flickr
Although kidneys are by no means unique to France, the French do love a good rognon and they are a common sight on menus. Bogen says there’s no reason expats shouldn’t have the appetite for a few.
“I've been eating these since I was a child. If you cook them right – nicely seared with a creamy mushroom sauce – they are delicious.”
Photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demary
This sausage has been frightening foreigners for years, probably because it's made with easily-identifiable pig’s intestines. Another turn-off for the more faint-hearted among us can be the pungent smell.
But really there’s nothing to be afraid of, says Bogen. “The taste is not as overpowering as the smell suggests. It’s very sweet and goes really well with onion confit,” says the chef. And if you want the finest Andouillette in France then head to Lyon, Bogen advises.
The sight of a Frenchman wolfing down a steak tartare, (chopped up or minced raw meat) has shocked many a newly-arrived foreigner in France. To many of us, steak tartare looks like it belongs in a polystyrene box on a supermarket shelf, not on a plate at a brasserie. But Bogen disagrees.
“Steak tartare is really light, it’s like eating sushi. It’s easy to digest and you don’t get any the grease you get from cooking the meat,” he said.
Photo: William Kwan
It’s not so much the taste of foie gras that puts some people off, but all the force-feeding of geese and ducks that goes on before it ends up on our plates. Forget about all that, says Bogen.
“It’s natural for the livers of ducks and geese to get fat. Foie gras is the result of a natural process, it’s not the result of a disease or anything. And it tastes so good,” he says. Not many would argue with his last point.
Photo: Stu spivack
Tête de veau
Cows are not known for being the cleverest animals, but once their brains end up on a plate, they come alive, especially with the help of a Gribiche sauce. Bogen has an easy solution for those who are not fans of eating veal's brain.
“Just put it in your mouth and you’ll get used to it,” he says. “Tête de veau is very good for people with arthritis. It is full of goodness and all the nutrients we need to have healthy skin and bones,” he says.
Photo: Amy Ross
Just as the French will eat pretty much any part of the cow’s body, they’ll also eat almost anything that comes out of the sea, including 'oursins', or urchins as we call them.
“Oursins have a really creamy texture and bring the taste of the sea to your mouth, just like oysters,” Bogen says. “People might find them slimy but you'll quickly get used to the taste and then won’t be able to resist. Don’t forget that they're also good for you.”
Another version of this story first appeared in 2013.