Tunisian food: how to cook like a local
From restorative meat and grain-based broths, to spiced carrot salads, experience the vibrant and diverse flavours from North Africa
Want to learn about Tunisian food? Looking for Tunisian recipes? Read Hafida Ben Rejeb Latta's guide below, then check out 10 of the best Mediterranean islands for foodies. We also have our Cook like a local: Ikaria, Greece, and Cook like a local: Crete.
Words and recipes extracted from The Tunisia Cookbook by Hafida Ben Rejeb Latta (£25, Nomad Publishing).
Tunisia is the jewel of North Africa, where green fertile valleys lead down to breathtaking views across the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean. The monuments of Roman-era Carthage speak of past civilizations who thrived here, and the land has been criss-crossed by invading empires ever since. Each has left its own indelible mark on the national cuisine.
Today, the cuisine of Tunisia is possibly one of the greatest undiscovered treasures of the Mediterranean. The country’s proud heritage of embracing and assimilating the foods and tastes of other cultures is evident in every dish. From the Phoenician sailors who brought the olive tree and Spanish explorers returning with tomatoes from the New World, to traders who introduced the herbs and spices from the Middle East so valued by ancient physicians for their health-giving properties, Tunisia has always been a melting pot of societies and food traditions. The delicate flavours of garden vegetables stand in stark contrast to the pungent seasoning, but ever in harmony with the ubiquitous extra-virgin olive oil grown from ancient cultivars. The oil – and indeed the whole cuisine – are now the subject of contemporary research revealing the profound benefits for health at the heart of the Mediterranean diet. It seems the Tunisians evolved a natural goodness in their food which ties in well with the contemporary popularity of healthy eating.
This hearty meat, frik (freekeh) and stock soup is flavoured with ras el hanout and paprika. It's especially well-loved in the fasting month, and appears on Tunisian dinner tables on almost all 29 nights of Ramadan.
Try this recipe for Tunisian tajin – a spicy tortilla packed with chicken, chickpeas, paprika and herbs. This is a slightly tweaked version of the dish that's cooked all over Tunisia.
Omek houria is a Tunisian salad made with puréed carrots and harissa – it's usually served with toppings like hard-boiled eggs, feta or tuna, but you can easily keep the dish vegan.