French trip – la cinquième partie – Is that tuna fresh?

Les HallesNo trip to the south coast of France can be complete without a stop in the covered market at Les Halles in Narbonne. The place buzzes with life and anybody with an interest in food will spend a couple of hours there without noticing. Let’s start with a few pictures:

First the fish.

Les Halles , Narbonne

The range of fish was incredible.

Fresh Fish at Les Halles

Enough on the fish for now. We will come back to it, I promise.

Fresh fruit at Les Halles

No shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables. I got in very early to get a few photos.

Fresh fruit at Les Halles

Les Halles spices

The aromas of the spices stuck with me all day.

As with most French markets, there was an incredible range of cheeses.

The French have a very different approach to butchery than we do here in Ireland. Health and Safety would get in a flap if they thought that pork was being butchered in a public walkway.

When my youngest daughter saw the shot all she said was “Hot, he’s hot!”

She did not say the same about the tuna guy. Now, if Health and Safety had an issue with ‘Hot Butcher Guy’ they would have had something to say about the chap sawing the tuna in half. I thought of asking him if it was fresh but then thought better of it. He was holding the sword.

By the time I got the camera out, he had switched from hack saw to huge sword like knife.

You know you want the gory detail. Yes, those are the fins in the bin, beside the head, just under the saw.

I stepped over the blood and ordered my tuna. Yes, to answer my opening question, the tuna was fresh – the freshest and best tuna I have ever tasted.

Quickly seared on a very hot pan. The best tuna I have ever tasted.

I fried it in the pan with some salt and pepper and served it with a tomato sauce and bread.

Tuna, beans bread and an awesome tomato sauce. One of the best meals we ate in France.

I will give more detail on the tomato sauce in ‘la sixième et dernière partie’ posting next week. For now, I have to ruminate on the overbearing food regulations that we live under in Ireland. In France it seems to be a case of ‘Let the Market Decide’. It looks like Les Halles has made the right decision.

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  • Now that is what I call a a fresh piece of tuna. We don’t have a market like that anywhere near where I live. If I know our health inspectors, they would have shut down the whole market, I’m sure.

    • Probably the way Karen. Yet, I live to tell the tale.

  • Excellent – I love real markets!

    • They are thin on the ground here in Ireland (and particularly in Dublin). Getting to rural France has an added treat for me.

  • Nice….

  • We had fresh tuna in the Algarve and its taste was so much more than the apologies for tuna steaks we can buy at an extortionate cost here. And the markets! So many here comprise a few polythene covered stands selling rails of cheap clothes and dubious CDs. Farmers markets have helped raise the bar, but they’re still a long way from the markets on the continent.

    • I agree on the markets. However, I do have difficulty paying through the nose for (usually farm grown) product sold ‘direct’. Economics dictate that removing layers of margin from the chain should mean better prices for the customer. Sadly, this is rarely the case.

      • Agree. But guess farmers would say that what they are charging is an economic price and that they can’t make a living from the return they get through supermarkets, processors etc.

        • Yes. But I bet there must be a middle ground where we could all meet.

  • Amazing looking market and all the seafood….living here in the foothills…I am jealous! The tuna looks fabulous! Why didn’t you invite me over to dinner? Was it the deal on the wine?

    • You bring the wine. I’ll have the fish ready.

  • Great market pictures!

  • I love fresh tuna, and also love how unconcerned by hygiene the shopkeepers are. Maybe because there is, in fact, very little to be worried about? Surely if there was a risk of everyone going down with dysentery, they would have stopped the practice? Anyway, I love it.

    • I believe that we are overprotected here in Ireland and a lot of the over protection is protecting jobs that add very little to the sum of our real health or wealth. But all that is for a different post in a different place.

  • Oh I do love this. Every time we go to market like this I get an attack of what my beloved B calls ‘kitchenitis.’ We now travel with a campaign chest in the back of the car containing a reasonably good mobile kitchen. We’ve had some truly remarkable meals cooked with ingredients from markets such as this. Mind you this beauty is one we’ve not been to – not yet.
    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Thanks for the kind words David. It is a great place. The markets in France bring out something in me too. I so often end up buying far too much. It’s hard not to do so. I love the idea of the mobile kitchen.

  • How I wish we have everyday markets like that in SA, mostly they appear over a weekend, usually Saturdays only, and disappear into oblivion for the rest of the week till next Saturday. Anyway, that tuna looks amazingly fresh, very hard to get that in SA, mostly frozen and sometimes we get lucky and get it fresh! And then way too expensive for my pocket! Anyway, great post love it!

    Regards,

    Willie

    • Thanks Willie. A half decent post is easy when you get the ingredients served up like they did in Les Halles.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Holy cow! I need to go to the south of France just to visit that market! And to drink loads of wine and eat loads of cheese. Thanks for posting such great photos!!

    • Thanks for stopping by Molly. It would be a worthwhile trip, for sure.

  • Great post, Conor! Such a shame I don’t live close to such a market, either. Thanks for sharing, The tuna must have been lovely.

    I tend to put taste before overcautious food safety, within reason and as long as I’m not feeding pregnant women. As you know I am currently in the USA where cheese with taste is hard to find, and many food is overcooked (better safe than sorry, better tasteless than a very small chance of food poisoning).

    P.S. Not sure that I agree with your daughter’s taste in guys 😉

  • I have a theory that the further south you go the less life is valued. Might be a bit controversial but I swear the French railway ‘safety’ around Aix would make even Network Rail wince, and that would take some doing. As for butchery – well we have so few butchers left around here I’m starting to think cattle are created as ready made cuts of meat in shrink wrapped plastic. Also its weird to see that picture of a tuna fish. I always think of tuna as small because of the little cans the meat comes in!

    • Believe it or not, that’s a small one. I also bemoan the death of the butcher trade. Anything out of the ordinary is usually too much trouble. I remember a butcher in Monkstown where I grew up. They would have half a cow hanging in the shop in various bits. One day I asked for a steak and watched him cut it straight from the side of meat. It gives on a sense of reality albeit a bit disturbing.

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