In some ways, food is something of a tourist trap in countries. Visiting any region often prompts questions about the local cuisine – with each and every location having its own traditional dishes that usually get mouths watering.
Suffice to say, Tunisia isn’t different at all. While it might be known for its history, culture and exotic temperatures, few people realize that it also has plenty of dishes that can entice you to return.
Most of the plates are based on seafood and lamb, with plenty of olive oil and spices thrown in for good measure.
Following on from the above, we’ll now take a look at nine dishes which are completely unique to Tunisia. Here goes…
This is probably one of the most renowned Tunisian dishes and if you are looking to order from a restaurant, it’s officially pronounced as “breek”. The main reason behind its popularity is because it is generally served at Ramadan, in the second course to be precise.
It’s one of the easier appetizers to cook which means that you’ll rarely taste a bad brik, so to speak. It is based on a pastry shell, going by the name of malsouqa, which is made by hand and is thin and circular-shaped.
The chef then has the option of choosing a filling for the pastry. A lot of people prefer them to be filled with egg, parsley and tuna – forming something which coincidently is called the egg brik. However, a variety of ingredients are considered, with cheese and capers other favorites.
Once the filling has been decided, the pastry is folded into a triangle and garnished with lemon juice.
We’ve all heard of couscous, but that of the traditional Tunisian variety is a little unique. This isn’t a dish housed for special occasions, like the previous suggestion of brik, with Tunisian couscous frequently served.
Locals will generally eat couscous with lamb and vegetables, with the latter including the likes of pumpkin, cardoons and cold broad beans.
There are no “size requirements” in relation to the seeds; locals will happily eat them whether they are fine, average or large.
Additionally, there is plenty of variety when it comes to the spices, with different regions of the country opting for different ones. For example, some might prefer dried and crushed rose buds, while others will turn to a spice like cinnamon.
This is a dish which will usually be consumed in the summer and is largely comprised of tomatoes and peppers.
Additionally, depending on who is preparing the dish, you can have it served either mild or hot – with the pepper dictating this.
It’s the level of spice which shows what will be served with Salad Mechouia as well. For example, if you’ve gone for the hotter dish, you’ll probably eat it alongside grilled fish or lamb.
The mild version meanwhile might be served with tuna and eggs, and is generally reserved as an appetizer.
On the topic of salads, let’s take a look at the Tunisian Salad. This is quite basic in its rawest form, with the salad taking advantage of chopped tomato, onion and cucumber.
Some chefs might also turn to the likes of beans, egg and tuna to add an extra dimension to it, but the main aim is to just emphasize freshness through the ingredients.
Most Tunisian Salad’s will have olive oil and lemon added on top.
If we move to a meatier dish, this comes in the form of Kefta. The main ingredient for Kefta is either minced lamb or minced meat, with this complimented with various spices and chopped onion.
The idea is that the above mixture is made into little balls, before being fried. Generally, the end result is served with tomato sauce and a carrot salad.
The fact that Khobz Mella “should be tried before you die” says everything you need to know about the reputation of this famous dish.
One of the main reasons behind its fame is because few people will cook it themselves, for the simple reason that they won’t have the equipment that is necessary.
An open fire is needed to cook Khobz Mella; not only this, the fire needs to have some contact with hot sand and embers. A flat loaf is placed into the above contraption and cooks accordingly.
Once it has finished – the crust of the flat loaf is what makes this dish. It’s ideally dipped in something like harissa.
Lamb a la Gargoulette
As the name might suggest, this is a dish which is largely based on lamb. Once again, few people will be able to cook this dish at home, as it requires a sizzling pot set down in a hole alongside coals and buried to the brim with sand. Due to the obvious heat, a heavy cleaver is needed to eventually prize open the pot once cooking is complete.
The interesting point about this dish is that the cooking process is subject to a medieval manual that’s generally only available in Tunisia.
It ultimately means that the concoction that goes inside the dish, made up of lamb stewed with peppers, paprika and tomatoes, is absolutely divine.
Tunisian Tajine can be described as a casserole, with lamb usually the main ingredient. As well as this, the likes of egg, coriander and cinnamon are used to make some people suggest that the dish resembles an Italian frittata.
The final round of ingredients usually come in the form of bread and potato, with either of these used to thicken the dish.
The whole mixture is baked in a pan before being served when it becomes crisp. Most chefs will cut the crisp result into squares and serve with cheese some sort of appetizer.
The fact that this dish includes so many ingredients, including meat, cheese and vegetables, makes it a favorite amongst Tunisians.
The final dish comes in the form of Khobz Tabouna. This is another form of bread and again, it’s something that isn’t likely to be made in the typical Western household.
This is mainly because it takes around five hours to mix and knead the bread and again, takes advantage of cooking equipment that just won’t be found in most households outside of Tunisia.
The tabouna which the bread is cooked in is several feet tall by several feet wide and narrows towards the top. Additionally, it is formed from baked earth – making it even more difficult to build – and forms an oven whereby bread is cooked vertically. There are stones at the bottom of the tabouna to retain the heat and ultimately bake the bread.
It might be a drawn-out process, but the end result is that Khobz Tabouna is not only a famous dish, but a particularly delicious one.