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10 Strange Foods to Try When in France (and where to find them in Toulouse)

10 Strange Foods to Try When in France (and where to find them in Toulouse)

Today on the blog, we’re going to do something a little different. Normally, we spent time championing all our very favorite French dishes and places to eat when in Toulouse. But today, we’re putting together an altogether quirkier list. 

Many of our guests, aware of famously exotic French dishes, such as frog legs and snails, ask us whether there are other less-than-ordinary foods they might bravely try while in France. So, we thought we’d compile a top 10 (it could have easily, though, been 20 or 30) of French cuisine’s less common dishes – and then wrack our brains to see if they can be found in Toulouse! 

And remember, if you’re in Toulouse and would like to see the city’s food scene through the eyes of a local food expert, we offer a range of Gourmet Toulouse Walking Tours and Tasting Experiences (but don’t worry, we go easy on the frog legs…).

L’Oursin (Sea Urchin)

It goes without saying, the taste of a food cannot be determined by its appearance. This is especially true when it comes to seafood. From cuttlefish and octopus to clams and caviar, our seas and oceans provide us with many delicious foods that can look downright otherworldly. But l’oursin, or sea urchin, is on another level. 

This marine curiosity is relished in various countries worldwide, and the French are among its biggest fans. Esteemed for its distinctive taste reminiscent of the ocean, it’s primarily savored raw. This seemingly unapproachable creature, covered with spikes and colloquially dubbed the sea hedgehog, contains an intriguing orange flesh that can be challenging to the uninitiated. 

In the south of France, particularly in the Mediterranean enclave of Séte, l’oursin is celebrated annually, highlighting its esteemed status among the region’s culinary traditions.

You can find sea urchins served at one of the raw seafood bars at the Victor Hugo Market, such as Poisonnerie Bellocq

Escargots (Snails)

Escargots, a quintessentially French delicacy, embodies both France’s culinary audacity and its finesse. 

The story of escargots de Bourgogne (served in butter and garlic), or Burgundy snails, can be traced back to 1814 when they were served to the Russian czar, Alexander I, but the history of snails as a dish for the elite stretches all the way back to ancient Rome.

Far from being a simple dish, escargots require a rigorous process of cleansing, seasoning, and cooking, culminating in a delicacy now synonymous with French culinary heritage. 

Escargots possess the flavor of slightly salty mushrooms. If trying them for the first time, opt for escargots de Bourgogne – with the generous accompaniment of butter and fresh parsley, you’ll quickly forget that you’re indulging in something you once thought unusual. 

We’ve been known to search out escargot at Le Bouillon (high-quality and affordable classic French dishes), L’Alimentation Foodstore and restaurant (locally sourced food with a great atmosphere), or Au Père Louis (one of the oldest bars in Toulouse and a legitimate historic monument).

Cuisses de Grenouille (Frog’s Legs)

Cuisses de Grenouille have long since risen above their reputation as a mere novelty. In fact, this delicacy has woven its way through France’s gastronomic landscape, securing places on fine dining menus and supermarket shelves alike. 

Opting for frog legs at a distinguished restaurant ensures a meal of superior quality, where the classic blend of butter, garlic, and parsley enhances the delicate flavor, likened by many to chicken or quail.

This dish has enjoyed quite a journey, from a mainstay of ancient Chinese tables and French monastic feasts to the popular dish it remains in France today. 

This is easily one of the least challenging dishes on our list. If you want to return home from France saying you sampled something unusual, cuisses de Grenouille is a fine choice.

Like many foods in France, there is a definite “season” for frog legs, so you’re more likely to see them on menus from late January until May or June. (We’re not telling you to schedule your trip to France around frog leg season, but we’re not not telling you that…) You’ll find them in Toulouse at places serving old-school dishes, such as Au Père Louis,  

Farci Poitevin / Farci Charentais (Vegetable Pâté Wrapped in Cabbage Leaves)

This striking green dish, incorporating a medley of Swiss chard, spinach, sorrel, and cabbage, can look a little odd at first, but it packs plenty of nutritious flavor. 

Traditionally, the recipe also called for egg and bacon, though fully vegetarian versions are becoming more common, making it an interesting option for those looking to avoid meat. 

Historically, the dish was often prepared using leftover vegetables and helped to reduce the waste of good food. You’ll find the dish served hot or cold. A fab way to get your greens!

Finding this humble dish on a restaurant menu could be challenging, as it’s one of those “here-today-gone-tomorrow” items that appear for a short time on menus at places that specialize in “cuisine du marché” (seasonal market cooking).  

Tripes (Tripe – Stomach Lining) 

Esteemed for its healthful properties, tripe marries robust, meaty flavors with a mélange of herbs and white wine. Tripe itself comes from the stomach lining of cows or sheep. In France, this delicacy often features in traditional dishes like “Tripes à la mode de Caen,” a renowned specialty from Normandy that includes carrots, onions, garlic, and a splash of Calvados. Although eaten across Europe, from Poland’s “flaki” to Italy’s “lampredotto,” the appearance of tripe (and the very idea of it) can be a little intense for those who aren’t used to it.

The depth of flavor that tripe possesses means it pairs excellently with simple boiled potatoes, which helps to balance its rich, savory taste. Despite the daunting appearance and somewhat off-putting origins, tripe is a well-loved dish with a long history and frequently appears on the menus of traditional bistros, local brasseries, and even fine dining establishments.

Try this dish and not only will you be able to take pride in your own sense of adventure, you may even come to enjoy it. In a time when many of us are becoming more and more conscious of sustainability around our eating habits, there’s a lot to be said for resourceful dishes that make use of every type of meat taken from an animal. 

Like many of the other unusual dishes here, tripe can often be found on the menu of old-school haunts serving bistrot-style cuisine (like Au Père Louis or the Bouillon des Halles) but you’ll also see it on the menus of certain chefs in Toulouse who are known for enjoying the challenge of cooking with organ meats, such at Nicolas Brousse of Cartouches, Hamid Miss of La Pente Douce, or Mikael Lecumberry of Le Rocher de la Vierge.

Tête de Veau (Calf’s Head)

With Tête de veau, which translates literally as “calf’s head,” we’re entering territory where some real culinary bravery may be required. Probably originating in the French region of Périgord, this dish features a calf’s head in a culinary display that can be a jot unsettling…

Prepared through hours of simmering until the meat tenderly falls from the bone, it’s served in two main ways: whole on the table or sliced and dressed in gribiche sauce, a savory blend of hard-boiled eggs, mustard, and oil. 

This culinary experience will not be forgotten in a hurry!

You can find tête de veau in Toulouse at restaurants like Le Magret (in the Marché Victor Hugo) or Le Bouillon des Halles.

Andouille and Andouillette (Sausages made of pork intestines)


A staple of Lyon, andouillette is a sausage made by combining pork intestines with an array of seasonings. Noted for its strong aroma and distinctive taste, andouillette surprises many with its sweet aftertaste. If you enjoy trying novel foods, andouillette offers flavours that are genuinely different. Andouillette is usually grilled or fried and served with mustard sauce, boiled potatoes, and a fresh green salad.


Andouille, a close cousin of andouillette, is made from pork intestines and chitterlings and is popular in Brittany and Normandy. It has an intense, tangy flavor and a firm, chewy texture. Andouille adds smoky depth to stews like “cassoulet” or “choucroute garnie,” and is also enjoyed on charcuterie boards with cheese and pickles. Andouille is often served cold, whereas andouillette is served warm.

A Note for American Visitors

Don’t confuse French andouille with the New Orleans version. The French andouille has a pronounced flavor, earthy and slightly funky, unlike its American counterpart, which is just a spicy pork sausage

Those brave enough to try it can usually find these dishes at Au Père Louis, Le Bouillon des Halles, and other places serving classic French dishes.

Brie Noir (Heavily Aged Brie)

Instead of the usual aging time for brie, which is 3-4 weeks, Brie Noir – or Black Brie – undergoes a much more dramatic maturation process. Taking up to two years, the aging process results in the cheese developing a distinctive dark color, crumbly texture, and intense earthy flavor. 

Originating from the surplus stocks of Seine-et-Marne, this cheese diverged from the soft Brie favored by royals to become a resilient staple for laborers and soldiers. 

Its robust profile, challenging even for seasoned cheesemongers, provides a rewarding culinary adventure. We recommend trying just a sliver (a little bit goes a long way) with un café (a shot of espresso).

You’re not likely to find this in the cheese course at a restaurant, but if you want to give it a go, we recommend the brie noir from Xavier Fromagerie, where they age the cheese themselves in dedicated cheese caves.

If you’d like to learn about the history of cheese in French culinary culture and expand your tasting vocabulary, consider booking our Private Cheese and Wine Tasting Experience in Toulouse

Pig’s Feet (AKA Pig’s Trotters)

A fairly popular dish in many parts of France, Pieds de porc (or pieds de cochon) are cooked slowly, until the meat becomes tender and delightfully gelatinous. Be warned, there’s no delicate way of eating them; you’ll most likely have to take those feet in your hands and gnaw the meat straight from the bone.

Historically, pig’s feet have a notable place in French cuisine. In 1459, Charles VII stopped in the village of Sainte-Menehould and was served their local version, falling in love with the dish. Later, during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was recognized while eating the same dish in Sainte-Menehould.

You, too, can fall in love with pieds de cochon in Toulouse at Le Bon Vivre

Couilles de Mouton (Sheep’s Testicles) 

Our final choice is unquestionably the most challenging. This specialty champions…the sheep testicle – an ingredient that tends to give diners pause. 

Preparation begins with meticulous cleaning, followed by soaking the testicles in cold water, then dicing and grilling them with a zest of lemon and parsley. Some chefs elevate the dish further by incorporating crème fraîche or a splash of white wine, enriching the surprisingly sweet, delicate flavors. 

While variations of this specialty exist across Europe and North Africa, Limousin and Périgord are regions known for having perfected the dish. We reckon this isn’t a dish you’ll want to order when nursing a hangover!

We have to admit, we’ve never personally seen this on the menu at a restaurant in Toulouse – but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there somewhere, waiting for daring diners! 

Not convinced by the novel dishes on our list? That’s okay, you can join us in Toulouse for a Chocolate & Pastry Tour instead! Or, you can view many of these items from a distance while enjoying lots of amazing cheese and charcuterie on a Food Tour of the Victor Hugo Market.
Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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