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Food in Tunisia

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What do people eat in Tunisia?

While eating food in Tunisia it doesn’t really matter how much your pocket weighs. In Tunisia, you can have the greatest tasting meals at paltry prices. To put it concisely, Tunisia can be a paradise for gourmets.

Normally, you can order a hearty Tunisian meal at one of the local restaurants (or gorgettos) for less than 8 dollars. The dishes served are mostly local and almost the whole lot of them contain meat in one form or another — even the salads are not spared! So if you are a vegetarian or even worse, a vegan, you will have to pass these local restaurants and go for the more expensive Tourism Department approved (they have this sign on the outside) restaurants that offer a wide variety of European Cuisine. But trips to these restaurants will cost you around $15-20.

Harissa appetizer

I would like to relate one important incident regarding appetizers in Tunisia. So we were just sitting in a mid-range restaurant and had ordered some dishes randomly. As we sat their talking, barely a few minutes after placing the order, a waiter arrived with a tray and I thought to myself, “Wow, this is blazing fast!” But as soon as I took a spoonful of the reddish sauce decorated with green olives, I felt like someone had napalmed my tongue. I was later to learn that this fiery paste was Harissa, and that it is a customary appetizer in Tunisia which is often served without ordering. Tunisians believe that this stuff aids in digestion by increasing the acidity of the stomach. Well, yes, but first it has to burn down your food pipe.

Couscous

Couscous

Couscous is the most popular of all Tunisian dishes, it even qualifies as the national dish of the country and you can find it everywhere. It is basically steam cooked salmonella grains served with stewed vegetables or lamb pieces and optional tomato sauce. It normally costs $5-6 per serving with free bread (bread is served complementary with almost all soups and dishes).

Kamounia

Kamounia is another very popular dish. It constitutes beef,mutton or lamb stew with a lot of fried onions and cumin seeds. It can cost around $4-5 per person.

Seafood

Additionally, the coastal regions of Tunisia are brimming with flavorsome sea cuisine. Grilled octopuses and fishes are most common and can cost $5-7 per serving. Other popular seafood delicacies are stuffed cuttlefishes, battered squid, stewed fish and poisson complet (a grilled fish with innards removed). Each of the aforementioned items can be easily obtained for under $8.

Snacks and soups

There is a diverse selection of snacks and soups available too. The egg-filled pastry, Brik a l’oef is the most popular snack and can be obtained from almost every restaurants for under $1. While Lablabi is a chickpea soup ($1-2) with loads of garlic and harissa [!].

Sheesha

Tunisians love to smoke Sheesha, which is basically a hookah with flavored tobacco in it, it is available in mint (most popular), strawberry, apple, grape and other flavors. You can have one for $2-4 in most cafes and share it with your friends.

Drinks

In the drinks department, Tunisia has a lot to offer. From the staple mint tea ($1, although served in small cups but when in public you should never gulp it down in one go or else everyone around you will stop anything they are doing and just stare at you, it is a custom in Tunisia that you have to drink it in three goes) to the finest of espressos ($1, very strong), from the tasteful of cappuccinos ($1-2, cappuccino is known as cafe direct in Tunisia) to the weirdest of Boukhas (Tunisian spirit made from fermented figs), you can find a lot to drink.

Although Tunisia has been producing wine for over 1500 years but still it is very hard to find due to the religious restrictions so you will have to go to an expensive restaurants to have the taste of the Drink.

Additionally, almost all mainstream soft drink brands operate in Tunisia. Fruit juices are also very widespread in Tunisia, with orange juice being the most popular and the cheapest.

Sweets

The culinary influence of both the Turks and the French in Tunisia is most evident in the sweets produced in Tunisia today. You can easily find Turkish Delight (loukoum, locally) and Acibedem (almond cookie), the French Choux Pastry (pastry with a generous quantity of chocolate syrup up top) and Entremets along with the indigenous goodies, Oudnin al-Khaddi (cakes made from different nuts and filled with honey) and Zriri Tunisienne (a basic conglomeration of different types of nuts and dry fruits), among others. Dates make up a large chunk of the sweets made locally in Tunisia and are often an after meal snack along with mint tea.

Tunisia food conclusion

In conclusion, Tunisia is one place where your stomach would have the time of its life (if you leave out the harissa and harissa based dishes!!). Tunisian people are also very nice to tourists and treat them very highly, but when eating out in Tunisia you have to make sure it is not Ramadan (the holy month in which all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk), although it will be evident from closed down restaurants but still if you know it is Ramadan then refrain from eating in public. Although the people will just give you”looks,” they consider it a very serious disrespect to their religious tradition.

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What did you eat in Tunisia? Let us know below!

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Filed under: Africa, Food, Tunisia

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China