Though predominantly Arab and Muslim, Tunisia's long history as a European colony, dating back to Roman times, and more recently as a protectorate of France, has added to the Mediterranean and North African culinary influences found in Tunisian cuisine.
Like all countries in the Mediterranean basin, Tunisia offers a "sun cuisine," based mainly on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood (a wide range of fish) and meat from rearing (lamb).
Like in the rest of North Africa, couscous is served on all occasions. It is traditionally eaten with lamb, the semolina must be very fine, and the vegetables (carrots, little white cabbages, turnips, chick peas) only lightly cooked. Depending on the season, the vegetables change: there may also be cardoons, cold broad beans, or pumpkin.
Couscous can also be made with chicken or fish or osben, a kind of round sausage made with tripe and various herbs. Different spices are found depending on the region, like cinnamon (kerfa) or dried and crushed rose buds (chouch el ward).
Sweetened semolina with dried raisins and dates makes a special dessert (mesfouf) served with a glass of cold milk.
Tajines are nothing like Moroccan tajines. In Tunisia, they are egg based dishes with chopped meat prepared like a large cake. Cooked in the oven, they can be seasoned with parsley, cheese or grilled peppers (the most common).
Visitors will also be able to try shoulder of lamb with potato (koucha bil aallouch), and meat balls (kaftagi) with tomato and fried peppers, which are either very spicy or served with mint (bnadaq). A great deal of dishes are egg-based: chakchouka, a kind of ratatouille provencale made with peppers, tomatoes, and egg; ojja, a kind of scrambled egg dish with a little tomato and garlic with chopped up merguez sausage or brains.
Finally, some of the most typical Tunisian dishes will only be found if visitors are lucky enough to have some Tunisian friends who will make them. These include melthouth, which is grilled barley served with meat or fish, mloukhia, veal stew with powdered corete which makes a delicious unusual dark green sauce.
Information provided by the Tunisia National Tourist Office.
Also visit our Middle East section.
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This page modified January 2007
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