Though predominantly Arab and Muslim, Tunisia's long history as a European colony, dating back to Roman times, and more recently as a protectorate of France, has added to the Mediterranean and North African culinary influences found in Tunisian cuisine.
In most hotels, your mealtime menu will be in English, and maybe the languages of other guests as well. The same goes for restaurants. You'll find all the familiar European dishes, with Tunisia, like the rest of the Mediterranean, adopting the "Continental breakfast." But, it would be a pity to miss the traditional Tunisian specialties. So, thank the French and congratulate the Arabs! For Tunisian cuisine is a subtle combination of both. Starters are an art in themselves. Mechouia is a salad of diced tomatoes, green and red peppers, hard boiled egg, tunny fish and capers, soaked in olive oil and lemon juice. Brik—which you'll find on all traditional menus—is a triangular envelope of crispy pastry containing a whole egg, minced parsley and onion. Don't drop a brik in Tunisia—it could be messy.
Cous-cous, another favorite, is a robust stew of lamb, poultry, or fish with vegetables on a bed of steamed grain semolina. The Tunisian Mediterranean is full of fish. Sea bass, bream, grouper, red mullett, sardines, giant shrimps, squid and succulent lobsters.
Tunisian sweets tend to be just that, often pastries based on nuts and honey. If you don't have a sweet tooth, the endless variety of fruits—straight from the tree, in most cases ó will make up for it. Tunisian coffee, rich and flavorful, is excellent; but, don't forget to try the refreshing mint tea, served in tiny glasses.
Tunisian wine is a revelation. Hearty reds like Haut Mornag, Magon and Sidi Saad. Gris de Tunisie, Sidi Rais and Koudiat are delicate roses—perfect for summer drinking—and whites include Thibar, Koudiat, Muscat de Kelibia and Blanc de Blanc. Boukha a "fig brandy" is much cheaper than imported spirits and the locals mix it with Coke. Thibarine is the elegant liqueur. And local Celtia beer is light and cooling. No, it isn't France, nor Spain, Italy or Greece. Tunisia. Where else?
Information provided by the Tunisia National Tourist Office.
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This page modified January 2007
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