French vote for Boeuf Bourguignon as country’s ‘national dish’

The French have voted for the dish that best represents Gallic gastronomy and yes the winner involves meat and wine.

French vote for Boeuf Bourguignon as country's 'national dish'
Photo Jun Seita/Flickr

The French public believe the classic dish Boeuf Bourguignon is the one that best represents Gallic cuisine.

The meat stew from the Burgundy region of central France, made with chunks of beef, mushrooms, carrots, lardons and shallots and Burgundy wine (depending on the recipe of course) normally served with potatoes is a pillar of French gastronomy that in 2010 was given heritage status by Unesco.

Boeuf Bourguignon regularly tops polls as the favourite dish of the French so it's perhaps no surprise it topped the survey by the Toluna Institute to find out the country's most repesentative dish.

In second place came blanquette de veau, which is sometimes referred to as in English simply as veal in a creme sauce. It has long been a favourite dish of the French people and apparently was a “a classic of bourgeois cooking”. 

“The result is logical,” Michelin star French chef Laurent Trochain told Le Parisien newspaper. “The traditional dishes echo our culinary heritage and at the same time have comforting values.

“They contain the simmering flavours from our childhood that we want to share with others around the world.”

Unsurprisingly in third place was the simple steak frites or steak and chips, which may not be incredibly sophisticated but it is a classic Gallic dish, served up in most brasseries.

“This doesn't shock me,” said Trochain. “Steak frites is a dish for friends that you can get in a brasserie at any time of the day. It can become gastronomic if you alter the cut of meat or vary the potatoes.

(Photo: David McSpadden)

In fourth place came Cassoulet, a classic slow-cooked casserole originating in the south west of France containing meat of all kinds and white beans.

Then came Magret de Canard, basically duck breast and poulet frites (chicken and chips).

Also in the top 10 were the classics snails and frogs legs, perhaps the two dishes that many foreigners associate with French cuisine even if they are not that widely eaten in most parts of the country.

(Photo: Valdiney Pimenta)

Rounding off the top 10 were côte de boeuf, essentially a steak and then Moules Frites – Mussels and chips, which is probably Belgium's national dish, but also incredibly popular in France, particularly in Normandy.

And where do the French like to eat all of these traditional dishes?

Well around the table of course, said an overwhelming 93 percent of respondents.

A fact that Pierre-Alexandre Teulié from France's Nestle Foundation, which commissioned the study found “reassuring”.

“It shows that our citizens still have a strong attachment to a longstanding tradition,” he said. 

“We are still one of the rare cultures to sit for a long time around the dinner table.”


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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!