Pan Bagnat and the Celebration of May. Nice, France.

In Nice, France, when the weather is sunny during the month of May, eating a Pan Bagnat on a bright Sunday really kick-starts Summertime, French Riviera style. A few posts back, I have mentioned “la Fête des Mai”, literally the Celebration of May, a sort of local food and culture Festival.This event that takes place every Sunday of May in the Parc des Arènes de Cimiez, where you can attend local dancing shows with traditional costumes, and eat so many nice local foods from Nice, including the Pissaladière (you can read about it here). Nevertheless, there is one other food that overtakes all others in the heart of all people from Nice, and this is our famous sandwich called Pan Bagnat. 

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat is a typical sandwich from Nice and dates back to the XIXth Century. Even its name is not modern French but is what we call here patois, which means old local dialect, our dialect being called Nissart. France’s got as many dialects as there are regions (and surely more). Pan Bagnat, in patois, means wet bread, in the sense that the thick bread, prior to being filled with raw veggies, is wet with lots of olive oil, so that it is easier for everyone to chew.

Wetting Pan Bagnat with Olive Oil
Wetting Pan Bagnat with Olive Oil

When I say raw veggies, I do not mean just any raw veggie you like. There is an official recipe for the Pan Bagnat, and although one can find the sandwich in all bakeries in Nice, some of them nowadays have got the Label that certifies they are using the original and official recipe – opposing to the “Pan Bagnat for tourists” found in all other places that basically are filled with just any available veggies, regardless of the tradition. You may be surprised to learn that the ingredients of the Pan Bagnat are strictly similar to the ingredients of the Salade Niçoise (that also has got a lot of fake recipes on the market these days by the way). The only differences are that the Pan Bagnat has scallions and bread (yes, it’s a sandwich!), and the Salade Niçoise has lettuce. Apart from that, same same, no different. The flavors and aromas of the Pan Bagnat are even more sensational because of the abundance of olive oil in it.

Pan Bagnat smells like the perfect holiday sandwich on the Cote d’Azur. I mean… I go to work tomorrow morning, but today feels like I am on a vacation somewhere near foodies Paradise. The Pan Bagnat is our common sandwich for a nice regular picnic on the beach in Summer, and in other seasons it’s just ideal for a picnic anywhere else. I’ve decided to treat you all with more pictures of specialty food from Nice, because it is so good and so unique that I cannot not mention more. I have a thought for Sue, my friend from Australia, who is always after good vegetarian options, and here is one that is the second best specialty food from Nice, the Socca. It’s basically chickpea flour and olive oil, baked and slightly grilled in an outdoor wood-burning oven on a giant metal tray, and simply seasoned with salt and lots of freshly grounded black pepper. It gives a kind of thick crepe and must be eaten with bare fingers (only a portion of the huge tray of course!). Just check out the pictures. It is absolutely delicious too.

Socca Tray
Socca just out of the Oven, about to be portioned
Socca Wood-Burning Oven
Socca Wood-Burning Oven

Let’s get to the recipe of the Pan Bagnat. Before anything, remember that the bread must be entirely sliced side to side, then the bottom bread must be a bit hollow so that the first layers of ingredients can lay still in it (take out a bit of bread to create a sort of crater). It is quintessential to wet the inner side of the bread with a generous amount of olive oil before piling up everything in it. Here is a list of all the ingredients (all thinly sliced) to make a real Pan Bagnat.

  • 1 round specialty bread for Pan Bagnat
  • Tuna crumbs or anchovies
  • Tomatoes
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pink radish
  • Local black or brown Olives de Nice (certified AOC)
  • Green bell pepper
  • Scallion greens
  • Basil leaves
  • Small fava beans (when in season only)
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt

I had meant to write this post for a long time already, because I am very attached to everything Niçois, especially the food that is so much part of our culture, and I am so glad that I finally am doing it today and talking about the Pan Bagnat that I love so much and so unconditionally! I had to wait for the right season I guess! That was a very local World Food Challenge this time, in Nice, France. Last picture: the Traditional Niçois Costumes worn for traditional local folkloric dances.

Local Niçois Costumes

Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

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