10 French dishes that you wish you never knew

Food – it’s a basic human right and a means to survive. But there are a few French dishes out there that we wouldn’t recommend even to our worst ennemi.

We’re about to let you in on 10 of France’s most dubious foodstuffs in one, easy-to-digest blog post. Bon appétit and apologies in advance. And in the interest of full disclosure, of course, we know that everything is relative and that one person’s frog leg is another’s double cheeseburger – these traditional French meals are altogether normal and delicious to some Gauls and Gals.

1) Langue de boeuf

Cow’s tongue (literally “beef tongue”) is a rustic French delicacy often served in thin, unrecognizable slices so as to disguise its inherent horror. Its texture is very substantial. Some renowned French chefs describe it as a “melt in the mouth” kind of meat. We would not describe it as such. Bon appétit bien sûr.

2) Tripes

You don’t really expect us to swallow this tripe, do you? Why yes, that’s exactly what we expect, and we hope you have the stomach for it. This awful offal traditionally includes all four chambers of a cow’s stomach, as well as hooves and bones. It cooks for hours and is flavored with herbs and white wine. Note: pronouncing it with a French accent will not make it any less repulsive.

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3) Andouillette

While half of the French population loves to complain about this pungent, intestine-filled sausage, the other half licks its lips just thinking about it. This staple of the south is taken so seriously that it even has its own club called the “AAAAA” (Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique) which can be translated as “The Friendly Club of Authentic Andouillette Lovers“. You might want to wash it down with a nice bottle of Bordeaux, or else your taste buds may disappear.

4) Tête de veau

After the tongue and the guts, the logical next step is to try a deboned calf’s head. Tête de veau is said to have numerous health benefits: rich in protein, healthy for skin and bones and highly recommended for those suffering from arthritis. While that sounds overwhelming, we’re positive there are alternatives that don’t involve eating cow heads.

5) Pied de porc

High on the food trauma rankings are pig’s trotters, a.k.a. pig’s feet. Bear in mind that it’s impossible to eat the trotters with style – eventually, you do have to use your fingers to allow gnawing around the bones. What a lovely image. Did you know? It’s a common belief that the French use every part of the pig except its oinker. As the French say “Tout est bon dans le cochon”.

6) Cuisses de grenouilles

One of the most clichéd delicacies of French cuisine, frog’s legs are slowly falling into unpopularity, but you might be lucky enough to encounter a plateful of them on an old-fashioned Bistrot menu. Pretty hard to swallow, if you want our advice.

7) Rognons

While strolling the streets of Bordeaux or Lyon, you may think you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience – chandeliers, posh waiters and gold mirrors – and next thing you know they’re serving you rognons, which are beef kidneys. Warning: rognons blancs are testicles. Good to know.

8) Couilles de mouton

Sheep’s testicles. We’ve already said too much. Please don’t swear at us.

9) Boudin noir

It might look like a run-of-the-mill sausage at first glance, but do not be fooled. The sausage casing hides congealed pork stuffed with fat, cream and seasoning. Yum.

10) Escargots au beurre persillé

What better way to finish this list than with a slimy snail? These are traditionally cooked, as the name suggests, with a butter parsley sauce, and presented in their shells, despite our invitations for these little guys to come out of their shells. Bonus: There are sets of fancy accompanying silverware to extract your snails. We’d expect nothing less.

You’re probably thirsty after all this reading. Fret not, we’ve got you covered. Our survival guide when in a French bar is all you’ll ever need. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our beginner’s guide on drinking etiquette in France. You’ll thank us later.

Note: These adventurous dishes may not be for everyone on everyone’s to-do list on their first trip to France. In the meantime, why not try our online French course Frantastique? Fun, short and personalized French lessons.

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11 thoughts on “10 French dishes that you wish you never knew

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  2. Mark Sexton

    Rognons à la madère is a favourite of mine. Escargots, cuisses de grenouille (especially salt & pepper chinese-style) and boudin noir are all good. Tripes de Caen…never again. Et pour les autres délicatesses? Non merci

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