The beauty of living in Paris is that things just happen to you, especially when you expect them the least. On a quiet, sunny Saturday morning after having taken my yoga class in the Marais, I walked down the street, determined to catch the next metro in order to get home. But then, suddenly, a couple featureless walls right in front of me caught my attention. It was mainly the exotic smell that made me want to discover what I could find behind those walls. I took the left side entrance and suddenly found myself in the middle of a sizzling little world, full of market stands, people and food. The smell of the fares was overwhelming and I started walking around and following my nose. I had just entered the Marché des Enfants Rouges, which was originally located close to an orphanage, from which it inherited its name and became a market in 1615.
First stop: French organic food stall ‘Au coin Bio’. For lovers of classic French grilled chicken with sautéed potatoes, this is the right address. The chicken legs are gigantic and tender and they come with golden potato gratin that you just want to indulge in. Especially if you are a vegetarian, you will strongly consider trying those good-looking, crisp potato pancakes that jump out at you from the show cage. Other vegetarian options such as salads and soups are available too. I haven’t tried them yet, but the customers seemed pretty happy with their choices.
Continue walking along the fruit and vegetable stands and make a sharp right turn. You’ll find yourself in front of the ‘Traiteur Marocain’. I never saw such mountains of tajine and couscous dishes, all with different kind of meats, topped with dried figs, raisins and nuts. Of course the Moroccan pastry is a must: the little pieces of happiness, covered in honey and sugar, just begs to be tasted.
‘Taeko’ is definitely my favorite place in the market. The Japanese cantine serves traditional Nippon food such as sushi, donburi (rice topped with fish, seafood or meat) as well as a choice of sashimi and bento boxes. As a sushi addict, I can guarantee that you will have one of the best sushi experiences that you can find in all of Paris. The fish could not be more fresh and the rice is perfectly sticky and infinitely delicious. Also try the little fried potato tempura (hiding on the menu under the name ‘croquettes de pommes de terre’); they will blow your mind!
A real gem is also the Afro-antillian traiteur, ‘Carrosillo’, that can be found next to the rue des Archives exit of the market. The place offers a variety of meat dishes (lamb, chicken, beef) served with Antillean rice. The lamb is so tender that it will literally melt in your mouth. If you are not a carnivore, go for the vegetarian platter: it is a composition of rice, vegetable fritters, banana skewers, fried plantain and eggplant. Absolutely fantastic!
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, hidden in the middle of the Marais, is definitely still an insider recommendation (although maybe not anymore after this article); you can rarely spot tourists. During the week, people who work around the corner go there for lunch and on weekends you can find lots of families with kids who come for brunch or weekly shopping.
Conclusion: an abundance of delicious food to discover (way more than what I described above), definitely one of the best places in Paris to try ethnic dishes in an authentic atmosphere and just a wonderful experience that makes you want to come back (at least once a day!).