` Socca (No Ball Required)

Food & Cooking

Socca (No Ball Required)

Aug. 28, 2012
By Tara Vassiliou

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Chez Thérèsa

Socca’ — is not a mis­spelling of the beau­ti­ful game” but a tra­di­tional Niçois dish resem­bling a large, crispy pan­cake. Made from the most basic of ingre­di­ents: olive oil, chick­pea flour, water, salt and pep­per – it’s sim­ple to make, and deli­cious. The best way to eat it? Steam­ing hot straight from the oven, with plenty of pep­per and with­out cut­lery.

Socca is cooked on a flat cop­per tray in a wood-fired oven until the top is golden. The cop­per is key to achiev­ing the ideal con­sis­tency of a crispy top and a soft base.

Chick­peas arrived in Europe via South­ern Italy and Spain cour­tesy of the Sara­cens in the Mid­dle Ages. It was only nat­ural that this exotic ingre­di­ent be com­bined with the locally pro­duced olive oil.

Ven­dors with their mobile ovens were once com­mon­place on street cor­ners, sell­ing socca as a nutri­tious snack; pop­u­lar with the work­ing class with its mod­est price. While most of the street ven­dors are now gone, there remain numer­ous cafes and restau­rants in the old town of Nice that still sell socca where it’s mainly eaten as a quick lunch, or as a snack with a glass of chilled rosé.

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A pop­u­lar spot for socca is at the Cours Saleya mar­ket where the tourists line up at the famous Chez Thérèsa. The vendeuse’ is easy to spot at the east­ern end of the mar­ket with her bright red lip­stick; serv­ing socca with one hand and hold­ing a cig­a­rette with the other. A word of advice: don’t go call­ing her Thérèsa. Despite her being referred to as such by numer­ous blogs and arti­cles (includ­ing The New York Times) that is not actu­ally her name — best to stick with Madame’.

Socca can also be found at Lou Pilha Leva’ (Place Cen­trale). This unfussy out­door restau­rant is besieged daily by long queues of hun­gry patrons eager to devour some socca as well as other Niçois spe­cial­ties. The French owner has his sights on export­ing the con­cept to the rest of the world start­ing with the United States. So, who knows, per­haps a piece of Nice, in the form of a slice of socca, may soon be com­pet­ing with pizza on the streets of New York.



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