One of the best things about travelling to a new city or country is to sample as many culinary delights as possible, some of which may be unlike anything you have ever tasted before.
Tunisian cuisine is strongly influenced by many different styles of cooking, inspired by French, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Arabic dishes.
Perfectly located on the northern tip of the African coast, and with its proximity to Southern Europe, Mediterranean cooking strongly influences the ingredients and recipes used for Tunisian cooking.
History also plays a role in the diet that is eaten today. There is a large French influence in Tunisia found in many elements of life. Much of its population speak French in addition to the official language of Arabic. This also spills over into the diet as many French recipes form part of household meal times and are found in restaurants across the county. This is a hangover from the French occupation of Tunisia (1879-1881).
Being an Islamic country, typical Arabic cuisine plays a role in the cooking, and even Middle Eastern style dishes have an influence.
Firstly, olive oil is a staple cooking ingredient which features in almost every savoury dish. However, probably the most key element to any Tunisian dish is of course spice. You will often find dishes that use coriander, cumin, caraway seeds, aniseed, cinnamon or the exclusive saffron. Chilli and garlic also play an important role in cooking here.
Meat dishes often include lamb, beef or chicken. Couscous is also a common part of the Tunisian diet. Due to its superb climate salads of all types are plentiful.
With this many cuisines influencing a nation’s diet and cooking style, what kind of dishes can you find in Tunisia, and more specifically in Hammamet?
Couscous – the national dish
This world famous dish, which can be combined with meat, vegetables, and spices or on a salad, holds its origins in Northern Africa and is Tunisia’s national dish. The basic ingredient of couscous is semolina. There are endless ways in which it can be prepared and recipes vary depending on which part of the country you are in. In coastal areas like Hammamet, you are more likely to see it on menus served with fish or shellfish. To try the nation’s favourite dish visit Le Jasmin at the Radisson Blu Resort & Thalasso, Hammamet.
Harissa – for a little bit of spice
Harissa is not so much a dish as it is an ingredient that is used in many signature dishes. This hot chilli pepper paste is made from roasted red peppers, hot chilli peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander and caraway, combined with salt, and off course, olive oil. If you ask any family, it is unlikely they will divulge their secret recipe which has probably been passed through the generations for years. It differs from region to region, and often from household to household. Harissa is commonly added to meat or vegetable stews, or couscous.
And something for those with a sweet tooth
Sadly, desserts do not often feature during meal times. To make up for this there is an array of sweet cakes available, many of which contain nuts and some kind of sugary liquid such as honey or syrup.
You will find French pastries such as mouth-watering croissants and pains au chocolat in most cafes. To experience the sweet side of Hammamet visit one of these local cafes, such as Sidi Bouhdid. Enjoy various types of croissants, crepes and cakes. Make sure you order an Arabic coffee to accompany it. This is the perfect place to absorb and appreciate ocean views over Hammamet Bay or watch the sunset set.
Vegetarian dishes are not easy to come by and it is not a familiar concept for locals. Even a dish of vegetables may contain meat flavouring or stock. Make sure you check this before ordering a dish.
Fresh from the sea
Due to Hammamet’s prime location on the North African coast, seafood features on the menu of most restaurants. La Bouillabaisse, as its French name suggests, is one such delightful seafood restaurant with a charming outdoor courtyard for al fresco dining located in beautiful Marina Yasmine Hammamet. Dishes from this extensive seafood menu are served with local produce, showcasing the best of Tunisian food.
Hammamet is Tunisia’s first tourist resort and caters well for visitors to the area offering a superb variety of restaurants and cafes serving both local and international meals. It is easy to try the many traditional dishes on offer and understand the great ingredients that are used in everyday cooking here.
What food would you most like to try when visiting Hammamet?