Do you know what Socca de Nice is?
Socca is the Ultimate French Niçois Street Food. A savory, smoky, crispy, oily and sometimes peppery crepe that has been made in Old Town Nice, France for hundreds of years. The thin-like bread, made with chickpea flour and water, remains one of the most basic foods in Provence, France. Stroll through the alleyways of Old Town Nice and you will for certain pick up the scent of Socca being cooked.
The history of Socca
Socca’s history is aggressively disputed by several towns along the Côte d’Azur. Two of the most popular tales claim that Socca originated from the Roman forces who were once stationed in the area of Nice, France. The other popular tale credits the appearance of the humble pancake to the Turks who invaded the city around 1543. Story has it that the Niçoise people sustained themselves during the invasion with the only supplies they had on hand, chickpea flour and olive oil. The truth, however, is unclear.
The batter of Socca is limited to four ingredients; un-roasted chickpea flour, a really good olive oil, water and of course, sea salt for sprinkling. The ingredients are simple but mastering the pancake can be tricky. Here, practice makes perfect. If possible a cast-iron skillet will provide the hottest temperature to make the socca crisp around the edges. Always use a pan that has a lip around the edge as the batter is quite runny. Before baking, always rest the batter so the starch can gelatinize which prevents the pancake from splitting.
If you find yourself in Nice and want to try Socca for yourself all you have to do is stroll the streets of Old Town and you most likely hear calls of, “Socca, socca” coming from the street vendors. Often the street vendors will cart, hot off the wood-fired ovens, pans of Socca attached to the front of their bicycles to food kiosks. I have often found the piping hot food snack at a food stall on the Cours Saleya, called Chez Thérésa, not far from the Place Masséna.
The Socca Experience at Home
The following recipe was provided to me by Rosa Jackson after taking one of her many cooking classes at Les Petits Farcis in Nice. Rosa states that she obtained the recipe from legendary Niçoise cook Hélène Barale.
Join us on our Spring 2023 trip, April 30th through May 10th and enjoy some socca for yourself!
- 1 Socca or pizza pan with a rim measuring 11-12 inches or two shallow 9 inch metal cake tins
- 1 & 1/2 cups Chickpea flour, preferably Italian (200 g)
- 2 tsp Salt (8 g)
- 2 cups Water (500 ml)
- 1/4 cup Plus 2 tbsp olive oil (50 ml plus 30 ml)
- Black pepper
- In a small bowl, sift the chicpea flour and mix it with the salt. Add the water gradually, whisking to remove any lumps.
- Stir in 2 tbsp (30ml) of olive oil.
- Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours before cooking the socca - the longer, the better.
- Preheat the oven to the highest heat, around 520°F (270°C).
- Heat the pan in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan form the oven and pour in the 1/4 cup (60ml) of olive oil.
- Add the batter and stir it lightly with the oil in th pan (the batater should be no thicker than 1/4 inch (or 0.5 cm)
- Cook for 18 minuest, shaking the pan after the first five minutes.
- Remove the socca when the color is deep golden and serve immediately. Cut into rough pieces, adding plenty of pepper.