Tunisia Food and Drink

Tunisian food combines Arabic, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and French influences. Dishes are cooked with olive oil, spiced with aniseed, coriander, cumin, caraway, cinnamon or saffron and flavoured with mint, orange blossom or rose water; many are accompanied by harissa, a spicy chilli and garlic condiment.

On the coast you'll find fresh seafood while in the Sahara region menus often feature Berber specialties which are often rustic-style wholesome stews. Roast chicken and baked lamb dishes are popular throughout the country, as are dishes featuring couscous. Salads form an integral part of the diet year-round and are simple and lightly dressed.

Tunisia isn't big on desserts. Instead there is a dizzying array of Arabic sweets and cakes to choose from, usually filled with nuts and drenched in honey or syrup. If that's not enough for your sweet-tooth, pastries here are a legacy of the French and you'll find melt-in-the-mouth croissants and pains au chocolat.

Specialities

• Couscous (ground semolina served with meat, fish or vegetable sauce).
• Harissa (chilli paste).
• Salade Mechouia (roasted vegetable salad).
• Tajine (a kind of spiced quiche, served cold – no relation to the Moroccan dish of the same name).
Brik (the Tunisian version of the Turkish borek; a deep-fried filled pastry. Common ingredients include tuna, egg, onions, capers and parsley).
• Merguez (a heavily spiced beef sausage).
Filfil mahshi (peppers stuffed with beef and harissa).
Lablabi (a chickpea soup with lashings of garlic).
Marqa (a slow-cooked stew of meat and vegetables).
Ojja (Tunisian scrambled eggs, usually spiced with lashings of harissa, as well as tomatoes, peppers and sometimes meat).

Things to know

Although Tunisia is an Islamic country, alcohol is not prohibited. It is sold in bars, restaurants and some supermarkets. Tunisia produces a range of palatable table wines, sparkling wines, beers, aperitifs and local liqueurs.

Vegetarianism is a concept that most Tunisians cannot get their heads around and vegetarians may struggle to eat a varied diet within the country. Although there are plentiful salads, soups, egg-based dishes and stews in Tunisian cuisine be aware that many 'vegetable only' dishes will have used a chicken stock as their base or will have one, or two, tiny pieces of meat added in for flavour.

Tipping

Not a requirement, but waiters and taxi drivers are usually tipped a few coins; waiters in tourist restaurants are accustomed to 10%.

Regional drinks

• Thé à la menthe (mint tea), often served with pine nuts.
• Ahwa arbi (Turkish/Arabic coffee).
• Boukha (thick aromatic spirit, distilled from figs).
• Thibarine (herb-based liqueur).

Drinking age

21 years.

Edited by Jane Duru
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