Bouillabaisse (Occitan: bolhabaissa) is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. The French and English form bouillabaisse comes from the Provençal Occitan word bolhabaissa [ˌbujaˈbajsɔ], a compound that consists of the two verbs bolhir (to boil) and abaissar (to reduce heat, i.e., simmer).
Bouillabaisse is a fish soup containing various kinds of cooked fish and shellfish and vegetables, flavored with a variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, orange peel, basil, bay leaf, fennel and saffron. There are at least three kinds of fish in a traditional bouillabaisse, typically scorpionfish (fr: rascasse); sea robin (fr: grondin); and European conger (fr: congre); and it can also include gilt-head bream (fr: dorade); turbot; monkfish (fr: lotte or baudroie); mullet; or silver hake (fr: merlan) It also usually includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins (fr: oursins), mussels (fr: moules); velvet crabs (fr: étrilles); spider crab (fr: araignées de mer) or octopus. More expensive versions may add langoustine. Vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery and potatoes are simmered together with the broth and served with the fish. The broth is traditionally served with a rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper on grilled slices of bread.
What makes a bouillabaisse different from other fish soups is the selection of Provençal herbs and spices in the broth, the use of bony local Mediterranean fish, and the method of serving. In Marseille, the broth is served first in a bowl containing the bread and rouille, with the seafood and vegetables served separately in another bowl or on a platter.