Tunisian cuisine is a unique fusion of culinary traditions of all peoples who inhabited or conquered Tunisia: Berbers, Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, French. Add here the cooking of Andalusian (Spain) refugees who came here after the Reconquista, and the Italian influence, which intensified in the 20th century.
In this article, let's talk about what food to prepare for tourists in Tunisia - the main ingredients, cooking methods and most common dishes.
Ingredients and Features
Like most Mediterranean cuisines, the key ingredients of Tunisian cuisine are: olive oil, tomatoes, seafood and fish, meat and flavoring seasonings. Among all Mediterranean cuisines, Tunisian is considered the most acute.
The flavor in most dishes is given by the national Tunisian sauce "Harissa", which is made from chili, cumin, garlic, coriander, tomato paste and olive oil. Harissa in Tunisia - more than sauce, this is an important part of the culture of the people.
For example, there is a belief that the happiness of marriage can be judged by the amount of harissa that the wife adds to her husband's food. If Harissa began to put a little, then fell out of love. Harissa, this is also one of the most interesting and colorful gifts that tourists bring from Tunisia , we have dedicated a detailed article on our website, read " Sauce and Spice Harissa ".
Tunisians actively use chili pepper in pure form. Other interesting seasonings, popular in Tunisian cuisine: jasmine, rose water, geranium, orange water, parsley, coriander, mint, basil, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf, thyme. Ordering a dish of Tunisian cuisine in the restaurant, prepare for an extravaganza of flavors.
Another distinctive feature of Tunisian cuisine is the abundance of fish and seafood. The main fish in Tunisian cooking, of course, is tuna. The tuna is fried, used in salads and as a filling for bricks or Tunisian fricassee.
Unfortunately, dishes from other fish do not shine with variety. The most common option is a seasoned and baked whole fish on the grill. Other dishes with fish are hard to remember.
Seafood in modern Tunisian cuisine is used every year less and less, as the catches of shrimp, crab, octopus, squid and mussels in the Mediterranean are falling. In Tunisia it became popular pasta with seafood, this pure Italian dish moved to Tunisia. From the French cuisine in Tunisia came shrimp and squid, fried in deep fat.
Of meat, in Tunisia most often used beef, chicken and lamb. Pork for religious reasons, Tunisians do not eat, although pigs are grown and pork is prepared for tourists in hotels. In the shops they sell pork delicacies, we showed the photos in our article " Prices for food in Tunisia ".
In Tunisia, tourists see a lot of camels, and it is logical to assume that camel meat is common here. Earlier camels were actively used in the farm, there were many camels, and their flesh was eaten, not to vanish the same. Now camels in Tunisia are more of a decoration, and not a draft animal. Camels are few, meat is consumed extremely rarely, in restaurants you will not find.
Tunisians have one culinary habit that shock Russians. They fry meat or vegetables to the state of coal on a crust. Russians consider this a marriage, but in Tunisia this is considered a sign of the quality of cooking.
They think like this: "If it's black, it means the dish is well fried." The quality of roasting for a hot climate is very important - it is a guarantee of food safety. The dish in the photo on the right according to the Tunisian concepts is prepared very qualitatively, click on the photo to enlarge.
In the Tunisian cuisine, chicken eggs are popular, there are some very colorful dishes from eggs: shakshuka , aja, Tunisian tajin. Egg is the most common filling for briks.
The two most popular fruits in Tunisia are dates and oranges. The dates are grown throughout the country, date palms grow and bear fruit even on the streets of cities, which often surprises Russian tourists . Oranges are grown on the peninsula of Cap Bon, and the city of Nabeul is called the "orange capital".
Milk and dairy products in Tunisia used to be very popular. Hence the not so great experience of Tunisians in the preparation of dairy products. Local yoghurts, cottage cheese and cheeses are considered by most Russians to be insipid. Only butter in Tunisia is of quite decent quality.
An interesting fact is that neither milk nor dairy products are added to the dishes. All this is taken separately. Tourists notice this at a breakfast in the hotel, when they see how a Tunisian cook is preparing an omelette from eggs only, milk is not added.
The main vegetable is a tomato. Tomatoes in Tunisia are very cheap, 0.7 - 1.5 dinars per kilogram. The current exchange rate is searched in our article " Tunisian Dinar ". Naturally, at such a price tomatoes and tomato paste cooks are very active.
In addition to tomatoes, in Tunisia are popular: onions, carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers, capers, potatoes, eggplants. From nuts prefer: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts.
The main drink in Tunisia is coffee. It is brewed in large containers and is sold in cafes and public places. You can often see a cafe where Tunisian men spend their day off. They just sit all day, socialize and drink coffee.
Inexpensive coffee costs 0.4-0.8 dinars. This is good quality coffee, at least so did the editor-in-chief of our site. A cup of coffee in a photo was bought by him in Sousse at Bab Jdid station ( Metro Sahel ), costing only 0.5 dinars.
Coffee in Tunisia is made in Turkish style, a legacy of that period in the history of Tunisia , when the country was part of the Ottoman Empire. Coffee is flavored with pink, orange or jasmine water. It was the Turks who brought coffee to Tunisia in the 16th century. In Tunisia there is even a national coffee pot - "zizoua", almost no different from the Turkish Turks.
The coffee most familiar to most Russians is American, latte, cappuccino, makochino in Tunisia, but in a slightly different form. We are accustomed to diluted coffee, for us the concept of "great americano" is 0.3-0.4 liters. In Tunisia, by "great americano" is understood the volume of 0.1-0.15 liters.
The second national drink is peppermint tea "mahrabi" or "atay". Such tea is common in all countries of the Maghreb, and each country considers itself an ancestor. This is green tea with mint and sugar. Preparing atai is a whole tradition, only men prepare it.
Naturally, in Tunisia juices and various sodas are now common. Alcohol in Tunisia is sold only to licensed bars, restaurants and shops. Strong alcohol is only in Duty Free and Magazin General stores. Read our articles " Alcohol in Tunisia " and " Magazin General ".
Tunisian cuisine can boast dozens of dishes, which we would recommend trying. But just do not try, so we made the TOP10 dishes, which we recommend to try during the Tunisian holiday.
One of the most recognizable national Tunisian dishes. It is prepared from a special test "malsouka" from manga. The dough is thinly rolled, put the stuffing from eggs, potatoes, tuna or a combination of the above. Next, the breeze is "closed", but not completely, and fried in oil.
It turns out something reminiscent of the usual cheburek, but the taste of the brics are very different. Dough in the briars turns thin and crunchy, more like chips. It is not customary to use meat for filling briks.
The size of the bricks resembles chebureks. The shape is made semi-circular or triangular. It is believed that the Tunisian brik came from the Turkish burek. We can say that the brisk and cheburek are "half brothers".
Read more in our article " Brick - Tunisian Cheburek ".
The dish with the name "couscous" is in many countries, and in each country it is special.
Couscous in Tunisia is cooked in a special steamer. In the lower part put meat, spices, vegetables. This mixture is quenched, and the saturated steam from it gets to the outer part of the steamer, where there is a grain of couscous. Preparation of couscous takes 1-2 hours. On a plate downward spread croup, from above put stew and vegetables.
Groats couscous is made from manga. Previously, it was prepared by women manually, the process was very time-consuming. Now the couscous is made at special factories on an industrial scale. The cooking technology of the dish itself has not changed.
Instead of meat, you can put seafood or fish, especially a large variety of "sea" couscous, you can try on the island of Djerba .
Russian tourists love couscous on a buffet, but they eat only the upper part (meat and vegetables), they do not even try the croup. It is not recommended to do so, you lose treasured impressions of Tunisia and its unique cuisine. Eat all together.
Read more in our article " Couscous in Tunisia ".
Spicy and sharp sausages from beef or lamb with the addition of tomatoes and sauce harissa. Mergezy now became popular not only in the Maghreb, but also in Western Europe. And in European countries they are sometimes made from pork, which they never do in Tunisia.
In Tunisia countless kinds of types of marigolds: from different combinations of beef and mutton mince, from the liver of different animals, from other offal. Mergezy have always been not only a delicious dish, but also a way of preserving meat, thanks to a hot sauce.
Dimensions of the fragrance range from small, reminiscent of our usual sausages, to large, half-sized Krakow sausage. Semi-finished products can be bought in any supermarket.
Ways of preparing the emulsion are the same as we have raw sausages - frying in a frying pan or grilling, baking. In hotels, the mildew is rarely served, because the dish is spicy and spicy, not for all tourists to taste.
We urge, if you see sausages on a buffet in a hotel in Tunisia, do not impose a lot, because it is likely that these marigolds will not be at all like it.
Read more in our article " Mergez ".
In the classical version, shakshuka is scrambled eggs, fried in tomato sauce, onions and spices. However, shakshuk in Tunisia can be prepared without eggs at all. In sauce fry potatoes or sausages.
In hotels, they sometimes prepare shakshuku, but try to put less spices in order to adapt the dish to the taste of European tourists. This shakshuku should be ordered in a restaurant, only in this case you will feel the full flavor of this dish. And we advise you to be careful, do not get dirty, the tomato paste does not wash properly.
Tunisians eat shakshuk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, although it is considered more of a morning meal. Eat with bread, at first eat eggs, then bread scoop up the remains of the sauce.
Read more in our article " Shakshuka ".
This cookie is considered by each country of the Maghreb to be its national dessert. On the right to be considered the birthplace of the dishes argue Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya.
Cookies are made from manga. Between the two layers of the dough make a layer of dates or figs. The almonds are always added, the macrum is even often called "almond biscuit", although the almond flavor is not as bright as the almond cookies we usually have.
Top of the cookies are covered with sweet syrup or honey, then cut into small squares, more often rhombs. Then baked, the outer surface of the cookie gets a characteristic shine.
The taste of the macrus is beautiful, although Russians do not seem to be very enthusiastic, because it is much tougher than the usual cookies. In hotels, the makrod is not served every day, and it can be difficult to try it.
We recommend that you go to the local supermarket for macrimo cookies. It will be an excellent gift, thanks to a long shelf life.
Read more in our article " Sweets in Tunisia ".
Do not confuse Tunisian and Moroccan Tajins, these are completely different dishes!
Tunisian tajin is a casserole made of eggs, meat, spices and herbs. Sometimes add potatoes, cheese or fish (instead of meat). This dish is something like an Italian fritt.
Tunisian tajin is accepted as an appetizer, and by tradition it is eaten by hands. Of course, our tourists use a fork, which, it seems to us, is more cultured. Tunisian tajin is one of the few non-acute dishes in Tunisian cuisine. However, the Russians still do not like him very much because of spices and herbs. Often Russian tourists call it "omelet", which is not far from the truth.
Outwardly, aja is like a shakshuku, but the first impression is deceptive. Aja is a stew of vegetables, meat, spices and harissa (where in Tunisia without it).
The types of agji are distinguished by the type of meat used. There is even "aja-mergez", when the sausages of the marigold (we spoke about them above) are baked with vegetables and eggs. It looks, let's say, "very unpresentable."
Another interesting species is called "aja piano", from the word "royal" - "royal". Such aja is prepared from seafood - shrimp, scallops, mussels.
Well-cooked aja keeps a rich red color, pleasant to look at. The taste of Russian tourists is rarely like, since this dish is always spicy and spicy. But if you love the sharp, then go to Tunisia and not try ajou - it's akin to a crime.
At the Swedish tables in the hotels aja appears very rarely to try this dish, you need to go to a local restaurant.
Very popular dish, very similar to the usual salad with tuna. The difference is that there are a lot of tunas in Tunisia salad.
It is made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, tuna. In some versions of the Tunisian salad, add eggs, peas, beans, potatoes or olives. Salad dressed with olive oil.
Tunisians themselves say: "This is a national dish of Tunisia, in which there is nothing Tunisian." And it's true, the dish is more like French or Italian.
In hotels, the Tunisian salad on the buffet is almost always present, as it is not acute, guests like it. Do not miss this dish.
He's also a "red salad", he's also a "baked salad." Very popular dish, in restaurants there is always, in hotels on buffet tables there is almost always. Served as an aperitif.
It is made from roasted peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, onion and garlic. Often an egg or tuna is added to this salad. In the classical version, this is a vegetarian dish.
Mashvia salad can be sharp or neutral, depends on the recipe. In hotels the neutral variant is more often served, in restaurants it is more popular acute.
We are used to saying that a salad is an exceptionally cold dish. That is, at first ingredients are prepared (if necessary), then mixed cold and seasoned with butter or sauce. Salad Meshvia is prepared differently, here the ingredients are roasted in certain combinations, then mixed. Therefore, Meshvia is not quite correct to call a salad, rather it is a stew.
A very simple dish that you can cook even at home, just stock up a jar of jarissa.
It is made from a bun bun, something like a donut. The bun is cut and a mixture of tuna with harissa and boiled egg is put inside. Sometimes add boiled potatoes or olives.
In hotels such fricasse is cooked extremely rarely. In restaurants in the menu it is rare. But in street food it is everywhere. We can say that it is in Tunisia at every step, and in the literal sense of this expression.
In the classical version, the dish is sharp, although there are also neutral recipes.
Pleasant impressions of Tunisian cuisine, and read our interesting and useful articles for tourists about Tunisia ( links below ).
Read about Tunisia on our website