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Monday, July 30, 2012

Saumon, Saumon Atlantique - Salmon. Salmon on French Menus. Atlantic Salmon is the only Salmon Generally Available in France.

Saumon – Salmon.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman    

 Salmon in France will be the Atlantic salmon, and it is France's best-selling fish. It will be on the menu marinated, fried, poached, grilled and smoked. Salmon is also number two in the fish restaurant popularity stakes just after fresh cod.

The Atlantic Salmon
Photograph by courtesy of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, USA
There is only one salmon, the Atlantic salmon, available in Europe and  its French names include: Saumon; Saumon Atlantique; Tacon  Atlantique; Saumon Baltic; Saumon Écossais; Saumon Norvégien or Saumon Sauvage.
In English the names for the Atlantic Salmon include: Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Black Salmon, Baltic Salmon Sea  Salmon, Silver salmon, Irish Salmon, Scotch Salmon, Norwegian Salmon and Wild Salmon.  

Atlantic Salmon on French menus:
Carpaccio de Saumon, ( Huile d'Olive, Toasts) – Salmon Carpaccio  flavored with olive oil and served with toast on the side.

Salmon Carpaccio
Photograph courtesy of fuxoft
Dos de Saumon en Croute d'Herbes, Sauce Paloise - A thick cut from the back of  the salmon, baked in a crust of herbs, and served with a Sauce Paloise. a granddaughter, or perhaps a grandson of one of France’s mother sauces, Sauce Hollandaise.
Grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce.
Photograph courtesy of entitee
Hure de Saumon – Translated without any good reason, at least any good reason  known to me, as salmon head cheese,  or the nearly as bad, salmon pate;  this dish is neither.  Hure de saumon is a fillet of salmon and parsley; steamed or braised and then prepared for display with a gelatin coating, nothing to do with a salmon’s head or any type of cheese.  A hure de saumon will be served cold with a fresh mayonnaise and is often part of a buffet offering. 
Millefeuille de Saumon Fumé, Sorbet Citron Vert – Layers of smoked salmon interleaved with a vegetable and served with a lime sorbet. With salmon, in season, the vegetable that make the millefeuille  will often be thin slices of avocado.
Pavé de Saumon Norvégien à la Provençale – A thick cut of Norwegian farm-raised Atlantic salmon prepared with a traditional Provençale recipe. The dish will include lots of tomatoes and the Provençale flavor will be coming from the herb group called the Herbes de Provence, along with shallots and a small amount of garlic, local black olives and parsley. Additions such as cream or crème fraiche and white wine are at the chef’s discretion; however, they were not part of the traditional recipe.
Filets of salmon with a Beurre Nantaise sauce.
A Beurre Nantaise sauce is also called a Sauce Beurre Blanc.
Nantes, the city is the Prefecture, the capital, of the région of the Pays de Loire.
Photograph by courtesy of Marx Foods.
Saumon Cuit Vapeur Servi avec Son Beurre Blanc, Riz et Poêlée de Légumes Glacés – Steamed salmon served with a sauce beurre blanc, rice and lightly fried glazed vegetables. 

Saumoneau de Fontaine Sauce Suprème aux Cèpes - Young salmon (smolt) from the river served with a sauce supreme and cepe mushrooms. (Sauce Supreme is a  white sauce made with veal or chicken stock, butter and crème fraiche; here the stock may be a fumet, a fish stock).
Saumon Ecossaise Label Rouge
Farmed Scottish salmon holding the French red label of consistent quality.


Scottish farmed salmon was the first non-French product to be awarded the French label rouge. The Scottish label rouge salmon also comes with the British RSPCA label of Freedom food.  The RSPCA, Freedom Food, rating is the highest standard for farmed-fish in the world.
This Scottish salmon is so flavorful and is farmed under such uniquely clean and controlled conditions that only five salmon farms have been awarded the French red label of excellence.
Filet de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge à l'Unilatérale, Pommes Sautées au Persil – A filet of Scottish label rouge salmon lightly fried through from the skin side of the filet, and served with boiled potatoes flavored with parsley. Cooking fish à l'unilatérale is considered, in French cuisine, the best way to fry a filet of fish; by cooking only on the skin side of the filet the flavor of the fish is not affected by the cooking oil as it would be if cooked on both sides.
Blanquette de Saumon Écossais Label Rouge aux Girolles, Marrons et Graines de Moutarde. A stew of label rouge Scottish salmon served with girolle chanterelle mushrooms, chestnuts and flavored with mustard grains.  The recipes for blanquette stews almost always include mushrooms and a cream sauce; many recipes include white wine. France has many chestnut forests and so chestnuts will be on many French menus. 
Saumon Fumé - Smoked salmon
 Saumon Fumé - Smoked salmon. France produces superb smoked salmon; however, in my opinion, the best Scottish smoked salmon still has them beat. Despite that caveat,   there has been a change in Scottish smoking over the years, and some of those changes include too much of a rather dry woody taste for me.  The French, now, are giving the Scots a run for their money.

A plate of French smoked salmon.
Photograph by courtesy of Karen Neoh.
Quite a number of French chefs now smoke their own salmon.  When you see, on a French menu, fumé maison, home smoked, then the chef is in charge of the smoking;  that will be smoked salmon made with love and it will not have been bought at from a restaurant wholesaler nor at the supermarket!
Salade d’Asperges Vertes, Saumon Fumé et Son Œuf Poché – A salad of green asparagus served with smoked salmon and a poached egg.
Saumon Fumé Maison et Ses Toasts – Home smoked salmon served with warm toast.
Saumon Cru or Saumon Mariné
Marinated salmon or cured salmon.
Cured salmon is sometimes mistranslated as raw; sashimi is raw, saumon cru is not, it has been marinated. I have had fabulous meals that included marinated salmon; twice, once in Paris, and once in Lyon I enjoyed the nearest thing to the “absolute” saumon mariné.
Saumon Mariné à l'Aneth – Salmon marinated in dill. This is the most popular herb, in France, for marinating salmon, and the dill is applied with a light touch. The result may be some of the best marinated salmon you will ever encounter. When saumon mariné à l'aneth is on the menu, in France, do not pass it by.

Salmon marinated in dill.
Photograph by courtesy of nyaa_birdies_perch.
Saumon Mariné au Citron Vert et Aneth -  Salmon marinated in lime juice and dill. When thinly sliced I think that French marinated salmon is the only salmon that comes close to the texture of the very best and thinly sliced smoked salmon.
Salmon Marine au Thyme –Salmon marinated with thyme.
Saumon Gravlax, Gravadlax or Gravad Lax
Gravlax is a dish of Scandinavian origin; it is the Scandinavian take on marinated salmon and  it preceded the French recipe. Gravlax has a different texture and taste and is popular in France and will be on many menu. Gravlax is made with whole filets of salmon, cured in a nearly, but not quite, freezing, mixture of salt, sugar, pepper and dill; it is  served thinly sliced though not  thin as the French marinated salmon.



Photograph courtesy of HannahWebb
On one visit to Sweden, I was told that the name comes from the Swedish be-grava meaning “to bury” with the word lax meaning “salmon.”  The name indicates that the recipe preceded refrigerators when it would have been wild, not farmed salmon that was marinated for a two or three days, during the long winter while buried under the snow; that was probably close to the home, probably close to the kitchen door.
Saumon Sauvage de l'Adour Mariné Façon Gravlax, Tomates Confites, Câpres et Fleur d'ail.  Wild salmon from the Adour River, prepared as Gravlax, served with a thick jam, a confit, of tomatoes flavored with capers and garlic flowers.  The Adour is one of France’s shorter rivers; the river rises in Pyrenees and flows in an arc for nearly 330 km before reaching the sea below the city of Bayonne. Despite the Ardour's short length,  it is famous for its wild salmon; here, you will be enjoying wild salmon, and since fish are undeniably very much what they eat; the difference in texture and taste to farmed salmon will be clearly evident.
Tartare de Saumon – Salmon Tartare.
Tartare –  The Tatars; the tribes who, under Genghis Khan, overran much of Asia and parts of Europe. In the French kitchen, the Tartars are now best remembered for the beef dish created by a French chef in their memory: Steak Tartare, steak Tartar. Following on that success another French chef begat Tartare de Saumon, salmon Tartar; that was followed by another chef who begat Tartare de Tomates, tomato Tartar.  From then on, like the real Tartars, there was no stopping them; one after another chefs begat and begot numerous new creations all named after the Tartars.
Tartare de Saumon -  Salmon tartar. Diced, marinated, fresh uncooked salmon prepared together with diced onions, chives, eggs, capers, parsley, olive oil, pepper and lemon juice. Tartare de Saumon will be served as an entrée, the French first course.
Tartare de Saumon et Pétoncles – Salmon and  the queen-scallop Tartare; prepared as the  salmon Tartare dish above. 
 For a different take on salmon tartare click here.

Salmon tartare
Photograph Courtesy of MichellePetersJones
Tartare de Saumon Baltic Fumé à l'Aneth et au Citron Vert  Baltic salmon smoked with dill and flavored with lime.   The usage of the name Baltic salmon is just menuise as the Baltic salmon is the same fish as the Atlantic Salmon. The fish offered here came from a Baltic Sea salmon-farm, and that will not be too different to Norwegian farmed salmon. Despite my caveat, there are the wild salmon that inhabit the Baltic sea, rivers and fiords of the countries around the sea. The brackish water of the Baltic provides different foods supplies for the wild salmon who live there and so many chefs claim that this provides a different taste. The Baltic sea does connect to the North sea and so from there onto the Atlantic; however, the Baltic Sea is virtually entirely surrounded  by Sweden, Finland, the Danish Islands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Russia.
France is home to many excellent Japanese restaurants including those with Michelin stars. You may enjoy salmon sushi, sashimi and more all over France; apart from many excellent Japanese restaurants you will find French chefs who have adopted Japanese recipes to French cuisine. Whatever the method of preparation you will rarely be disappointed when ordering salmon in France.
 Over 98% of salmon on sale French fish-markets and on restaurant menus will be the Atlantic salmon; it will have been farm-raised in Norway, Ireland, Scotland and a few other European countries. The other 2% of Atlantic Salmon will be saumon sauvage, wild Atlantic salmon from the Atlantic or North Sea, Scottish rivers or France’s own rivers. A small amount of wild salmon. mostly saumon rouge, sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, is imported, frozen, from North America and I have heard that some saumon rose, humpback salmon may come from Russia or the North of Sweden to which it has migrated.      

A Bear Getting Ready to Enjoy Salmon Sashimi.
Photograph by courtesy of Thadd Selden.
The Atlantic Salmon: (German – Atlantischer lachs, salmon, echter lachs, wildlachs, lachs, las), (Italian – salmo, salmone, salmone atlantico, salmone Del Reno), (Spanish – salmon, salmón Del Atlántico).

 Below are the French names for other salmon species; many countries have excellent French restaurants and  excellent French chefs,  and they may be serving a salmon other than Atlantic salmon.
Saumon Argenté or Saumon Coho - Coho salmon.
Saumon Chinook or Saumon Royale – Chinook or King salmon.
Saumon Keta or  Saumon du Pacifique - Chum Salmon or Keta salmon.
Saumon Rose or Saumon Rose à Bosse – Pink salmon or Humpback salmon.
Saumon Rouge - Sockeye salmon or Red salmon.
Saumon de Fontaine – This is not a salmon; rather this is the brook trout, a tasty member of the trout/salmon family. These are fresh water fish and an excellent menu choice; however, they are not salmon.
Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013
To discuss publishing the book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman.
(No self-publishing offers please.)


  1. I just found your blog and am going to have to spend a lot of time with it! What a great resource. I have been living in Paris for over a year, love food, and often have questions about it, like "why is all the salmon here farmed?". (Well, now I know!) I come from CA and adore wild salmon, steelhead, trout, etc, and was kind of sad to only see farmed salmon here. Thanks for such a well-researched blog!

  2. Hi Lynn,

    Thank you for the comment.

    France, nor anywhere in Europe can compete with North America for the variety and availability of fresh salmon. Europe has a single salmon, the Atlantic salmon, and dining on wild Atlantic salmon will not be inexpensive.

    France, however, with its many wonderful chefs does wonders, even with farmed salmon. If you choose, in France, Scottish farmed salmon, which reaches French restaurants, with the French Label Rouge then at least you will know that someone is looking at how they raise the fish. It will also taste better.

    When back home read your menus and super market labels carefully; farmed salmon is also a very large business in North America. You should be aware of that.

    In the meantime, when in France, consider trying all the many types of fresh or freshly caught and chilled fish that you will rarely see on the other side of the pond.

    In the meantime bon appetit!

    despite the farmed salmon enjoy dining in France.


    Bryan Newman

    Behind the French Menu