There is a great reliance on harissa, the dark red paste of spices, red chilli peppers and garlic. Some people add tomatoes to the mix.
There’s lots of tuna, olives and eggs. There’s olive oil by the gallon.
And bread. Long crusty baguettes. Smaller batons. The glorious pain pave, the slightly rounded, flat French rustic white bread. Round local specialities – with semolina and oil; with wholewheat; or plain white flatbread.
But Tunisia has many layers – Mediterranean, Arab Muslim, and the influence of successive civilizations, the Berber, Phoenician, Roman, Turkish and French.
So how does one get Tunisia on a plate?
These three places hit the various high spots. Read on:
IN THE MEDINA:
You can click on the name of this charming restaurant, café and shisha parlour bang in the heart of Tunis’s old market.
It’s got atmosphere, huge plates of food and lots of freebies (free fried mini briks ie pasties and little bowls of nibbles as a starter). It’s also exceedingly cheap.
Some say it’s one of the oldest cafes in the area. I wouldn’t know. all I can say is that it’s yards away from Jemaa Zitouna, the mosque.
27 El Souk El Kasba Trouk
The Medina, 1008 Tunis, Tunisia
ON THE BEACH:
The Factory is really trendy and quite dramatic. It’s in a white building, the Kobet El Hawa that juts out into the sea. As you sit at its huge windows, you can feel the spray from the waves that dash against the rocks below.
Great thin-crust pizza.
01 Rue Mongi Slim, Marsa Safsaf
OFF THE GRILL
It’s on the old road to Bizerte (the port town is still at least an hour away). There is a string of meshwis (grill stalls) all clumped together at one particular point along the highway and the Turkie is at the far end. As with most meshwi joints, you choose your cut and how much you want, pay and wait for it to be grilled to perfection. Meanwhile, they’ll bring you bread warm from the oven, salad mechouiya, which is a Tunisian speciality that’s not a salad at all but a mash of grilled peppers and onions. And salad Tunisie, which is just cucumbers and tomatoes and onions.