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TUNISIAN CUISINE


THE FOOD

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).


BREAKFAST

The foreign visitor's average day begins with breakfast, which will not normally be served in bed. Visitors now tend to go down to the hotel restautant where a large and particularly copious buffet is set up for part of the morning. Clients will find tea or coffee, baskets full of croissants, pains au chocolate, and cake along with carafes full of home-made fresh lemon and orange huice. Fine slices of ham, galantine and Dutch cheese are arranged on trays, and there are also large baskets of fruit (oranges, bananas, and, when they are in season, dates). Finally, there are delicious Tunisian-made fruit yoghurts, boiled and scrambled aggs. Afters this good start to the day, visitors will be ready to go to the beach or valiantly begin their visit.

Shortly before lunch, it is common to have an aperitif - alcholic or non-alcoholic (anisette, beer, fresh fruit juice) - with the " kemia" (an assortment of pistachio, peanuts, broad beans, olives and various vegetables either fresh or pickeled).


LUNCH

Tourists busy visiting may prefer simply to grab a bite to eat at lunch-time. In Tunisia there are innumerable little open-air food stalls, cabins, and caravans selling typically Tunisian fast food : the copious and delicious Tunisian sandwiches filled with tuna, hard-boiled egg, perppers, diced tomatoes and onions, dressed with olive oil and touch of hot spicy harissa sauce.

If you do not want to stand eating in the sun, you can always by a drink at a nearby cafe and ask if you cac eat your sandwish there...

If you have a little more time to spare, it is possible to find good restaurants serving Tunisian food. A typical menu will include the folowing hors-d'oeuvre: briks (a kind of thin pancake filled with spinach or mashed potato and soft-boiled egg), slata mechouia (tuna and hardboiled eggs with peppers and diced tomatoes, onion , and grilled garlic), delicious Kerkennah Island octopus salads, Tabarka and Gabes prawn salads, and chick pea soup (lablabi), noodle soup (halim), fresh vegetable soup and Sfax fish soup (marqa sfaxiya).


FISH DISHES

Thanks to its long coastline and numerous fishing ports, Tunisia can serve a most abundant, varied and exceptionally fresh supply of fish in its restaurants. Before ordering, restaurant owners will usually show you a large plate of fish including red mullet, sole, mackerel, grouper, sea perch, cod tuna, octopus, etc.

Many fish lovers will be happy to have their fish simply grilled and servedfilleted or sliced with lemon juice and a little olive oil. Fish can also be baked, fried in olive oil, stuffed, seasoned with cumin ( khamoun), however. Squid, cyttle fish, and octopus are often served in hot crispy batter with slices of lemon.

The most sought-after speciality is poisson complet: the fish you choose is prepared, fried, grilled or sauted (whichever way you choose), accompanied by chips and either normal or spic tastira, depending on the kind of peppers used in the dish. The peppers are grilled with a little tomato, a lot of onion and a little garlic, all of which is finely chopped and served with a poached egg.


TRADITIONAL DISHES

Like in the rest of North Africa, coucous 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 chage: there may also be cardoons, cold broad beans, or pumpkin.

Tunisian cuisine Couscous can also be made with chicken or fish or osben, a kind of round sausage made with tripe and various herbs. Different spieces 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 perpers, which are either very spicy or served with mint (bnadaq). A great deal of dishes are egg-based: chak-choukha, a kind of ratatouille provenšale made with peppers, tomatoes, and egg; ojja, a kind of scrambled egg dish with a little tomato and garlic with chopped up merguez suasage 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.


DESSERTS

There are innumerable kinds of desserts ranging from honey cakes stuffed with makhroud dates ( a Kairouan speciality ) to fresh figs,chick pea flour cakes, brick layers with almonds and honey ( baklawa ) which are found more or less every where, bouza ( hazelnut or sorghumcream and grilled sesame seeds ) served during the Ramadan meals, and assida, a thick flour cream and grilled pine seeds, and, depending on the means at hand, pistachio, hazelnut and pine kernels . These sweets are rarely eaten at the end of the meal, but a little later on in the day with mint tea, or when people visit or meet each other.


DRINKS

With the exception of palm wine (lagmi), Tunisia's wines come from the northern region's vineyards of Haut Mornag (red, white, rose ), Koudiat (red, white, rose), Saint Cyprien(red), Thibar( red, white), Tardi (red) and the Carthage, Hassen Bey and Kelibia muscats.

Numerous springs produce top quality mineral water, for example Safia, Ain Garci, Selma, Jetkiss, Zulel. During the summer a lot of fresh fruit drinks are drunk, notably orange and lemon juice. One could not forget to mention the traditional mint tea, sometimes served with pine kernels.


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