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Tunisian cuisine, the cuisine of Tunisia, is a blend of Mediterranean and Berber cuisines. Its distinctive spiciness comes from the many civilizations which have ruled the land now known as Tunisia: Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Spanish, Turkish, Italians (Sicilians), French, and the native Punics-Berber people. Many of the cooking styles and utensils began to take shape when the ancient tribes were nomads. Nomadic people were limited in their cooking implements by what pots and pans they could carry with them. The Tunisian tagine, is very different from the Algerian or Moroccan dish. It is a type of a pie dish, made out of eggs, meat and vegetables, similar to the Italian frittata or the eggah.

Like many countries in the Mediterranean basin, the Tunisian cuisine is heavily based on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood and meat.

Origins

Tunisian cuisine developed from berbers, ancient Carthage, Rome, the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb, and the Ottoman Empire. The cuisine has been strongly influenced by French and Italian (especially Sicilian) cooking.[1]

Ingredients

Asida is an East-African dish made up of a cooked wheat flour lump of dough, sometimes with added butter or honey
Merguez is a red, spicy mutton or beef-based fresh sausage
Egg shakshouka made in Tunisia

Unlike other North African cuisines, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively in Tunisian cooking, harissa, is a mix of ground chili peppers, garlic, and spices commonly sold together as a paste. It is usually the most important ingredient in different sauces and gravies. Westernised harissa mostly contains red chilies to replace "black cumin" which is different from standard cumin. Other common spices include cumin or cumin seeds, garlic, caraway seeds, coriander seeds and paprika. A recipe for the sauce includes red chili peppers and garlic, flavored with coriander, cumin, olive oil and often tomatoes.[citation needed]

Like harissa or chili peppers, tomato paste is also an ingredient integral to the cuisine of Tunisia. Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are prominently used in Tunisian cooking.[citation needed]

Tunisian culinary ingredients include the following typical elements:[2]

  • Condiments and flavorings: harissa, rose water, orange blossom water, jasmine water and geranium water.
  • Eggs.
  • Farm animals: lamb, veal, beef, camel and chicken.
  • Fish and seafood: tuna, squid (calamari), octopus, anchovies, eel, sardines, mackerel, red snapper, sea bream, sea snails and sea bass.
  • Fruits: lemon, oranges, figs, dates, olives, apricots, pomegranates and quince.
  • Like many countries in the Mediterranean basin, the Tunisian cuisine is heavily based on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood and meat.

    Tunisian cuisine developed from berbers, ancient Carthage, Rome, the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb, and the Ottoman Empire. The cuisine has been strongly influenced by French and Italian (especially Sicilian) cooking.[1]

    Ingredients

    Asida is an East-African dish made up of a cooked wheat flour lump of dough, sometimes with added butter or honey
    Merguez is a red, spicy mutton or beef-based fresh sausage
    Unlike other North African cuisines, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively in Tunisian cooking, harissa, is a mix of ground chili peppers, garlic, and spices commonly sold together as a paste. It is usually the most important ingredient in different sauces and gravies. Westernised harissa mostly contains red chilies to replace "black cumin" which is different from standard cumin. Other common spices include cumin or cumin seeds, garlic, caraway seeds, coriander seeds and paprika. A recipe for the sauce includes red chili peppers and garlic, flavored with coriander, cumin, olive oil and often tomatoes.[citation needed]

    Like harissa or chili peppers, tomato paste is also an ingredient integral to the cuisine of Tunisia. Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are prominently used in Tunisian cooking.[citation needed]

    Tunisian culinary ingredients include the following typical elements:[2]

    • Condiments and flavorings: harissa, rose water, orange blossom water, jasmine water and geranium water.
    • Eggs.
    • Farm animals: lamb, veal, beef, camel and chicken.
    • Fish and seafood: tuna, squid (calamari), octopus, anchovies, eel, sardines, mackerel, red snapper, sea bream, sea snails and sea bass.
    • Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are prominently used in Tunisian cooking.[citation needed]

      Tunisian culinary ingredients include the following typical elements:[2]

      Tunisians also produce grapes, wheat, barley and orchard fruits, once fermented they become wines, as in Chateau Mornag which is a staple Tunisian wine, beers (Celtia, Berber or the Stella brand - now owned by Heineken of the Netherlands), brandy (Boukha - fig liqueur, Thibarine - herbal date liqueur, or other liqueurs made from pomegranates, dates, lotos (jujube), carobs or prickly pears) and apple ciders. Scented waters with dark rose or blossom petals, similar to aguas frescas with flowers, have been called "scents from heaven".

      Tabil, pronounced "tebel," is a word in Tunisian Arabic meaning "seasoning" (similar to 'adobo' in Spanish) and now refers to a particular Tunisian spice mix, although earlier it only meant ground coriander. Paula Wolfert makes the plausible claim that tabil is one of the spice mixes brought to Tunisia by Muslims coming from Andalusia in 1492 after the fall of Granada. Today, tabil, closely associated with the cooking of Tunisia, features garlic, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds and coriander pounded in a mortar, then dried in the sun. It is often used in cooking beef, veal and game.

      Due to the long coastline and numerous fishing ports, seafood has a prominent place in Tunisian cuisine. Fish can also be grilled, baked, fried, or stuffed and seasoned with cumin (kamoun). Squid, cuttlefish and octopus are served in hot crispy batter with slices of lemon, in a cooked salad, or stuffed and served with couscous.

      Regional cuisines

      Tunisia has different regional aspects. Tunisian cuisine varies from north to south, from the coast to the Atlas Mountains, from urban areas to the countryside, and along religious affiliations.

      For instance, the original inhabitants of Tunis (the Beldiya), do not use harissa much; they prefer milder food, and have also developed their own breads and desserts.

      Closer to the Atlas mountain range, game is favoured. A diet may be composed of quail, pigeons, squabs, partridge, rabbits and hare. In the Cap Bon, people enjoy tuna, anchovies, sardines, sea bass and mackerels. On the island of Djerba, where there is a dense Jewish presence, Kosher food is consumed. In Hammamet, snails are enjoyed. Organs are traditionally staples of Tunisian cooking, such as tripe, lamb brains, beef liver and fish heads.

      Despite the strong presence of fast food and restaurants in Sfax, people from the city enjoy their traditional dishes more than anything else. Sfaxians tend to add their own touch to the Tunisian cuisine. They have staple regional dishes such as "The Marka" which is a fish soup to which Sfaxians usually add vermicelli or couscous. The soup can also be eaten with barley bread or croutons. "The Charmoula" is also another dish made out mainly of baked raisins and onions and spices and it is traditionally eaten with salted fish on the First day of Eid al-Fitr. Sfax is also famed for its pastries. There are two kinds of Sfaxian pastries: daily pastry (locally called "hlou Arbi") like Makrouth, Doria, and Ghraiba, and high-range pastry for weddings and special ceremonies (like Baklawa, mlabbes and Ka'ak warka').[3]

      In Djerba, kosher cuisine is available as well as a myriad of restaurants[4] offering a wide range of regional dishes like rouz djerbi and mainly seafood-based meals.

      Main dishes