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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lamprey in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

River Lamprey.

Lamproie, Lamproie de Rivière, Lamproie de Mer and Grande Lamproie, Lamparda  -  The lamprey; a very strange and jawless animal, not really a true fish. The French name lamproie, like the name lamprey in English, is the general name for any member of the lamprey family. The French names noted above are all different members of this unique family, and there are others.


Lamproie à la Bordelaise – Lamprey prepared in the manner of Bordeaux; this is the most famous of all French lamprey recipes, and its origins go back to the middle ages. The lamprey is cooked with leeks, ham, onions, a red Bordeaux wine, and some of the lamprey’s own blood. Depending on the area where this dish is served Cognac or Armagnac will be added for their flavor. This is a recipe that takes lots of preparation, and as a result is quite an expensive dish. Lampreys were and are considered a delicacy;

Lamproie à la Bordelaise
Photograph courtesy of Gastronomie Aquitaine

    The lamprey used in this dish is the Lamproie de Rivière also called the lamproie fluviatile, lamprillon or flûte. 
    Your chances of finding  lamprey on a menu in France depend on the lamprey’s lifestyle and the dates of your vacation. February through April is the only time this lamprey may be caught in any quantity; then the lampreys swim along the Rivers Dordogne and Garonne to the Atlantic on their annual migration.
     Lampreys are a unique and separate family of fresh water and sea water animals that, to many, resemble eels. Despite that somewhat visual resemblance, there is no connection between the two species.  

European brook Lamprey
    Having failed to be in the area to taste any dish when lampreys were on the menu, I have relied on the views of chefs and restaurant critics. All agree that the meat of the river lamprey is more delicate than that of freshwater eel and much to be preferred.  Apart from their unique recipes lampreys are also considered a tasty addition to many fresh-water and salt-water based fish soup and stews.
The lamprey in the languages of France’s neighbors:

The River Lamprey  -   (Catalan - llampresa de riu),(Dutch - amproye),  (German – lamprete, lamprida), (Italian - lampreda di fiume), (Spanish  - lamprea de río).

The Sea Lamprey - (Catalan –llampresa de mar),  (German -    grosse Lamprete, seelamprete), (Italian - lampreda di mare), (Spanish   -   lamprea de mar), (Latiin - petromyzon marinus).
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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