Couscous in Tunisia
In hotels of All Inclusive in Tunisia, tourists are pleased to be fed with dishes of national cuisine. Couscous is the main dish in the Tunisian cuisine and kitchens of other countries of the Maghreb. And if you can still ignore the buffet at the hotel restaurant, then there will be no choice during lunch on excursions - it is served to tourists in most cases, it is necessary to try. In this article I will tell you in detail about couscous in Tunisia.
Couscous - croup and dish
The word "couscous" is called as croup, which is made from manga, and almost all the dishes from this cereal. In the Maghreb countries, this word refers to most dishes prepared from barley cereals, millet, rice, corn or sorghum.
But when the Tunisian says the word "couscous," he means the dish referred to on this page. In the photo on the right you can see how it looks, click on the photo to enlarge.
Name and origin
In classical Arabic, the dish is called "couscous," but in different countries the name is different. In Tunisia they say "coscisi" or "kusseksi", in Egypt they say "couscous", in Morocco "sex" or "kessuks", Berber Tuareg say "ceskes", in Algeria they say "sex" or "taam". The last word is translated as "food" from the local dialect, which clearly shows us that couscous is the main dish in the country.
The origin of the word has many versions. The main version is the origin of the Berber word "ceskes", which denotes the special dishes in which this dish is prepared. In favor of this version speaks the fact that the word lacks the article "al", that is, the word is not of Arab origin. Note that none of the above words have an article "al."
Not surprisingly, the invention belongs precisely to Berbers. This method of cooking greatly saves water. In addition, in one dish, meat is stewed and garnish is prepared simultaneously. In the desert, all this is important.
Another version is that the word is Arabic and is derived from the Arabic word "cascais", which means "grind," "grind," or "small."
And the last and most extravagant theory is that the name is formed from the sounds of the steam emerging from the dishes.
It's hard to say when they came up with this dish. The first written mention refers to the 13th century, this is the "Cookbook of the Maghreb and Andalusia", the author of this work is unknown. Cuskus is described as a "dish known to the whole world," which tells us about its very wide spread already at that time.
The famous food historian Charles Perry writes that couscous originated between the end of the Zirid dynasty and the rise of the Almohad dynasty, that is, between the 11th and 13th centuries. However, during the archaeological excavations in the Tiaret region in Algeria, fragments of 9th century pottery were discovered, very similar to special dishes for cooking couscous.
The French historian Lucy Bolens went the furthest back in time. She writes that cookware for cooking couscous was found even in Berber burials, dated by the reign of King Massinissa, the very one whose mausoleum tourists are looking with pleasure in Dougga . It turns out that the Berbers cooked this dish 200 more years before our era.
It is difficult to say whether the pieces of glassware are proof of the existence of a dish? Couscous utensils are an ordinary steamer. In such a steamer could cook meat, fish, and stew vegetables. Steamers people invented a very long time, the first Chinese steamers 7000 years old.
Dishes for cooking
The steamer consists of two parts. The lower part is specially made a little "paunchy", in Tunisia it is called "makful". In this part put meat, vegetables and spices. The top part of Tunisians is called "kiskis", in this part the croup is steamed. In the bottom of the upper part holes are made for the passage of steam.
The steamer can be ceramic or aluminum. Traditional dishes, of course, ceramic, because the Tunisian pottery - one of the pride of the country. However, to bring from Tunisia such a steamer does not make much sense, there is nothing exclusive about it.
How and from what is prepared couscous
In the lower part of the steamer put vegetables, meat and spices. Meat is lamb, beef or chicken. Recall that Muslims do not eat pork for religious reasons. Turkey is rarely used. In the southern regions of Tunisia you can find a special kind of couscous, prepared from camel meat.
Tunisia has its own unique species with fish or seafood. On the island of Djerba you can try the largest variety of such couscous. Fish couscous is a specialty of Tunisia, especially recipes with tuna.
There are also purely vegetarian recipes, where meat is not put. Sometimes meat is not used in broth, and the finished dish is placed on top of the emulsion .
From vegetables for couscous in Tunisia like carrots, turnip, potatoes, eggplant, bell pepper. And, of course, in Tunisia all this mixture is seasoned with the national sharp sauce harissa . Add water to the mixture so that broth is formed during cooking, and the vapors of this broth are steamed in the top of the steamer.
Another feature, Tunisians like to put in a mixture of nuts. It turns out stewed nuts, looks already colorful and interesting. Such nuts are very soft, but they lose their taste.
In the top, pour the rump and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes.
To prepare a delicious couscous, it is important that the steam does not leave the steamer. Tunisian chefs use the usual dough to seal the gaps between the two parts of the steamer and the gaps between the top and the lid.
It is interesting that they prepare in two stages. After the first 30 minutes, grains are pulled out of the steamer, then put back again. It's very interesting how the Tunisian cooks determine the readiness, they do it by the sound of hitting a spoon about the steamer. In Algeria, they prepare not even in two, but in three stages.
Ready croup is poured onto a dish, the contents of the lower pot of the steamer are scattered from above. Couscous is ready to serve.
Tips for tourists
- When relaxing in Tunisia, be sure to try a traditional Tunisian dinner. It starts with dates, then a lentil soup chorba, then a briquette and the main dish is couscous.
- In cafe restaurants they prefer to put couscous separately from other dishes. Usually, it is a round large dish with a lid, beautifully painted with patterns in Arabic style.
- Try the dish completely. That is, and cereals, and stew, and vegetables, and nuts. Otherwise, consider that you did not eat real couscous.
- We advise you to impose yourself couscous as soon as you see it. The fact is that tourists are very fond of approaching a dish and pulling out meat. It often happens that from couscous, after only 5 minutes, only croup and a few vegetables remain.
- The dish is cooked even without a special steamer. You can use a pan and colander, as in the photo on the right.
- Eat lamb and beef gently. In Tunisia they like to put out large pieces, in which fragments of bones come across.
- The dish is prepared with spices. We always recommend having a medicine for allergies, as described in the article " What to take with you to Tunisia ".
Have a good taste of Tunisian cuisine, and read other cognitive and useful articles for travelers about this country ( links to articles below ).
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