Socca… you may or may not have heard of this classic Niçoise dish. If you have then you’ll know that it is delicious. If you haven’t then I’m here to enlighten you on what you’re missing out on! The Stay YNA blog means I am lucky enough to indulge in my passion for local cuisine and it doesn’t get more local than Socca. It’s a simple basic pancake made from ground chickpeas and doesn’t quite resonate with the glamour of the Riviera, so I arranged to meet Chef Luc Salsedo, – the creator of Socca chips and his colleague Morgane, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon on the French Riviera to explore the historical roots of Socca and its deep seated heritage in Niçoise cuisine and of course to have a taste test!
I headed down to the historic Old Town of Nice (Vieux Ville) to be met by Chef Luc and Morgane pulling up in a Socca Chips vintage 4L Renault decorated car. I had to take a double glance as the windows had been cellophaned with a picture of Socca chips making it look so realistic… there is no mistaking their passion for this iconic delicacy, talk about a good marketing trick! From there, we made our way to the Cours Saleya marketplace to the most famous Socca stall ‘Chez Thérésa’. Chef Luc notified me that the stall, ‘Thérésa’ has been serving Socca on the same corner since 1925, would you believe it?
The legend of Soccas creation is quite the entertaining tale. One story goes that the Roman forces, once stationed in Nice, would light a fire under their shields to use it as a grill to fry the mix of chickpea flour and water. Another says that Socca was born under siege of Turkish invasion when the people of Nice fed themselves with cupboard staples that they had – again chickpea flour and olive oil.
I had never tried this simple but delicious dish, but I knew that day was the day I had too! The Socca is brought over to the stall on a cart from their authentic takeaway shop in the heart of the Old town and is then cut and served up to the customer in a paper cone. The savoury chickpea pancake is crisp with golden brown edges and has a moist interior. Did I mention it has to be enjoyed with a glass of the finest Côtes de Provence wine, a lovely combination if I do say so myself.
Chef Luc wanted to take the snack to a new easily accessible and munchable level! So what made him do this may you ask…Since a young age, he had always wanted to be a chef and that dream eventually became true when he was just 15 years old. He worked in gastronomic restaurants around some of the most amazing places in the world alongside some of the world’s greatest chefs – Alain Ducasse and Franck Cerrutti, Arnaud Poëtte, Jean-Marc Delacourt. You name it! In 2004, he opened his own restaurant, the ‘Luc Salsedo’ in Nice. Now, it wasn’t until 2014 when Chef Luc experimented making small chips with some leftover Socca, because he believes, nothing should go to waste, and everything can be transformed! It took months of trial and error to perfect the recipe and one day he finally hit the nail on the head. From there, Socca chips were born. The Chips are made from just 4 ingredients: chickpea flour, olive oil, salt, and pepper (and sunflower oil for the final cooking). And to top it all off, they are gluten-free!
Socca chips were an immediate success which was actually a surprise to Chef Luc as this original product already had its place among French aperitif snacks. The crunchy golden chips are now sold in 1,500 places of sale. They come in several flavours as well as an organic version. Which one will you choose… Some love to keep it classic and simple like my director Amanda but I like a little bit more flavour so tend to opt for the Rosemary or Garlic flavour.
At Stay YNA we love to support local and that’s why we stock a bag of this goody wholesome snack in our gourmet welcome hamper for guests to try and boy, do they go down well! One of the most moreish snacks I have ever tried, and the same for our guests. You won’t just have one or two chips, you will end up eating the whole bag… trust me!