Exploring countries is inseparably linked with tasting local specialties. Whether salty or sweet, Tunisian cuisine can boast delicious dishes and a variety of flavors.
It is probably as diverse as the landscape itself, spreading through the mountainous north over the fertile valley of the river Medjerda to the desert area in the south. Therefore, nature provides the inhabitants with a great variety of crops. The central part, the most important one, is the place for olive trees. Tunisians use olive oil a lot, and the olive trees are so valued that they must not be destroyed even to construct new buildings.
The Cap Bon Peninsula, located in the northeast of Tunisia, has always been of economic importance. It is known for its vast vineyards and oranges, lemons, peppers, and tomatoes. Harissa, which can’t be missing on tables in Tunisian families or restaurants, is made of peppers. The sauce contains hot peppers, garlic, and salt, but there are also harissas with different flavors, such as herbal ones. Tasting the version with fish eggs can be a challenge. However, the locals prefer the original harissa and produce the other versions mainly for tourists.
Table Covered with Specialties
A great and filling choice is ojja, similar to Hungarian vegetable stew, cooked from tomatoes, peppers, and eggs; however, the Tunisian version is usually enriched with merguez – lamb sausages or shrimps. The locals also like fish such as sea bream, tuna or swordfish, and meat but in smaller amounts, unlike us. At home, they often prepare pasta with tomato sauce, harissa, or chicken.
An integral part of Tunisian cuisine is couscous boiled over steam from the broth. It is prepared from vegetables, fish, or meat and dipped in a tomato sauce.
If you are in Tunisia, don’t hesitate to try the traditional brik – a thin fried puff pastry filled with eggs and dripped with lemon juice. Tunisians eat it with their hands.
Sweeten up Your Day
There are many fruits grown in Tunisia. In May, there is a strawberry season. In restaurants, they are served with whipped cream. If you enjoy watermelons, pomegranates, figs, or dates, they taste the best because they grow and naturally ripen there.
Dates, typical for Tunisia, are often used as an ingredient in the traditional sweet dishes. When visiting Kairouan, it would be a sin not to taste the Makhroud, a specialty of this important city, one of the holiest cities in the Islamic world. The date cake with honey looks like a diamond from which the name is derived. Tunisians also like a special vanilla pudding sprinkled with pistachios, sometimes enriched with a few drops of rose water for the aroma.
Tunisian cuisine offers many delicious dishes. It is definitely worth visiting the souk – market, where you will experience its distinctive atmosphere and buy everything from spices, vegetables, and fruits, meat to carpets, perfumes, and jewelry. And among other things, you will encounter Tunisians who like to come there to drink their favorite sweet mint tea.
Text and photo: Miriama Vojteková