On the coast of the Mediterranean, the country of Tunisia is blessed with an incredibly rich environment of sun, heat, and plenty of rain. In the northern regions and along the coast, these factors together create a sort of green house affect that allows for a rich soil to produce great crops of fresh produce. Most of the country’s produce is grown, harvested, and sold in open air markets often within a day or two of coming out of the ground or off the trees. Seafood can be bought fresh the day it was caught, and poultry and meats are often chosen live and butchered on command. Such freshness in day to day foods has created a high standard in flavor and flare in which Tunisians take great pride in their cuisine.
The standard Tunisian dish is homemade couscous. A freshly made couscous meal begins with first producing the couscous. Most families will buy large containers of semolina (ground durum wheat, grown and harvested in Tunisia), and make their own couscous. The durum wheat is mixed with water and worked by hand over a mesh drum until tiny granules are formed. These granules are then dried and stored for use throughout the year. When time to make a meal, the couscous grains are then prepared by steaming them until they have a light, fluffy consistency.
As with most Tunisian dishes, the flavor of the sauce is of utmost importance. Again, great detail is given to freshness. Spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, paprika, saffron, caraway, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and garlic are usually bought whole and specific amounts ground at the time of meal preparation. These spices are added to fresh meat, poultry, fish or vegetables as they cook or boil together with locally produced olive oil to create a delicious sauce that is later spooned over fresh couscous or other dishes. An important distinction in Tunisian cooking that sets it apart from its North African neighbors is the red hot chili pepper that is added to just about everything. At the time of harvest, chili peppers are cleaned and then laid out in the sun to dry. Once thoroughly dried they are ground into a fine powder that is stored and then used to add deep red color, amazing flavor, and unforgettable heat to any dish.
Reading about Tunisian food and the process in which different recipes are made could never compare to the actual experience of having a cooking lesson from a Tunisian in the surroundings of her own home. Experience It Tours Tunisia now offers an authentic Tunisian cooking experience as an excursion option on any of our Tunisia tours. The flavor and richness of the refined Tunisian cuisine comes to life as you are taken through the steps of preparation of several national dishes taking part in the actual process. To complete your lesson, you are served the prepared meal in a true cultural style. Taking part in a cooking lesson is one way to experience first hand how Tunisians have embraced their rich history displayed in their highly diverse and flavorful cuisine.