“Arab Harissa”… an Andalusian recipe that has dominated Tunisian cuisine

A beautiful sunset

The scene of beating red peppers by grandmothers in the traditional way almost never leaves the childish imagination of Tunisians; An elegant and pleasant aroma that comes from the “mash” after the pepper has been mixed with garlic and spices, or emanates from the corners of the kitchen by mixing it with some type of food. It smells all over the house and neighborhood.

The “Tunisian harissa muharra”, a popular dish well known in Tunisia and in the Arab world, has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO), last December, encouraging the Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs to consider harissa “as a living memory that embodies a set of traditional knowledge and know-how, arts, culinary and food habits”. What are the most striking characteristics of this dish, its historical status and its particularity in the diversification of Tunisian dishes?

Harissa “Nabila” and “Mahdawi”

In each region of Tunisia, harissa has its own identity. There is “Nabelia” in relation to the state of Nabeul located in the tribal region of Tunisia, and Harissa al-Mahdawiyah in relation to the state of Mahdia located on the coastal strip. Dishes from these two regions and a A number of other Tunisian regions are notable for making harissa.

Although the main harissa ingredient for both recipes remains the same, which is dried red chilli, each region has a culinary flavor that sets it apart from the other, as Nisreen, a housewife from Nabeul, has stated in his interview with Raseef22, “The Nabulian harissa is distinctive. It has to be ground with a grinder or meat grinder to make it soft, and many spices are added to it, the most important of which is garlic and spice (coriander).

“Tunisian Harissa Muharra”, a popular dish known in Tunisia and the Arab world, has entered the UNESCO list and has been accepted by the hearts of millions of Tunisians over the centuries. What are the particularities of the Tunisian cuisine lover?

Rawda, a housewife from Mahdia state, Raseef22, told Raseef22 that the harissa in her area is prepared with sun-dried red chilli, not “makush” (oven-dried). the spice of oregano (coriander), and harissa is ground with a grinder with the addition of olive oil.

Harissa, the kitchen lady

Hatem, a Tunisian cook, does not renounce harissa in the preparation of the wedding couscous dish, which is an essential ingredient for “couscous” to be the distinctive dish of Tunisian wedding celebrations. Hatem points out that he is one of the best-known chefs in the region where he lives and that he prepares the harissa ingredient himself at home to have a particular imprint in the preparation of dishes, in particular the preparation of “beef cabbage” spices, as well as some other foods.

Harissa is on the throne of Tunisian cuisine, and it is not limited to exceptional events. My aunt Mahbouba, originally from Tunis, confirms for her part that despite the fact that she lives in an overcrowded district, the “mehras” does not leave her kitchen and does not go out of her lunch and evening meals, as the saying goes. our interlocutor: “His voice is very annoying, but it is necessary to prepare daily harissa. To form the seasoning of the lunch and dinner dish, the family has become addicted to this flavor, and the daily preparation of harissa is worth better than making lots and storing it.”

Our interviewer adds: “Harissa hardly leaves most of the dishes I prepare, including couscous, macaroni, mallow, omelet, rice, broth of all kinds, soup and roasts (a popular Tunisian dish ), as well as the famous ‘Ilaby’ food, which is dedicated to the cold of winter.”

Harissa cannot be eaten on its own, because it is absolutely not possible because it is very hot, so it is used as a flavoring in a number of Tunisian savory dishes of red color, as well as with bread, and it is considered a delicious and enjoyable food for most Tunisians because it gives warmth to the body, especially in winter.

Honorable mention

Harissa is a constant element of the Tunisian table, because of the diversity of its forms of use and its distribution on the national territory, cities and villages, and its consolidation of the Tunisian specificity and the unification of different segments of Tunisian society and its important role in rooting its identity. press conference, expressing the hope that this successful experience will encourage everyone to continue their efforts to preserve and enhance the national intangible cultural heritage and to work for the inclusion of other elements of it in the human heritage.

“The harissa hardly leaves most of the dishes I prepare, including couscous, macaroni, molokhia, omelet, rice and broths of all kinds.”

This is not the first time that Tunisian products have been crowned at the world level, but rather the sixth inscription of the Republic of Tunisia on the UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The pottery of the Sejnan women and the knowledge and know-how associated with its realization were recorded in 2018, and the palm tree, knowledge, know-how, traditions and practices in 2019, and honorary hunting in the Kerkennah islands and “couscous” in relation to knowledge, know-how and practices related to its production and consumption (in partnership with Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania), and the arts of Arabic calligraphy, know-how, knowledge and practices in 2021.

Tunisian cuisine is ranked worldwide, as it is among the 50 best cuisines in the world for the year 2022, according to the ranking of the international site specializing in international culinary arts (Taste Atlas). Tunisian cuisine ranks 48th world rank, third in Africa and fourth in the Arab world.

Andalusian roots

Tracing the origins of harissa, the word derives from the verb “to mash,” which means to pound and crush the red pepper. It is prepared after drying by adding some spices and flavorings such as garlic, spices, salt and onions.

Historians say that “harissa” arrived in Tunisia with the Spanish occupation, between 1535 and 1574. During the 17th century, the Morexans intensified the cultivation of pepper in a number of Tunisian lands during immigration Andalusian, and it has spread to a number of states. of the Republic of Tunisia.

The regions of the tribal homeland, the north and the center, and each of the states of Kairouan, Sidi Bouzid and Gafsa, are the most important regions which were famous for the cultivation and production of pepper, the main ingredient in the manufacture of pepper. ‘Harissa. , while Nabeul and Kairouan are famous for producing large quantities of pepper, manufacturing and exporting them, and Nabeul state is also famous for having an annual festival to celebrate Eid Harissa and pepper, red pepper is usually grown in April, and there are different types used in the preparation of harissa. The pepper is harvested and dried in the summer for sale in various quarters throughout the year. The annual pepper harvest exceeds 500,000 tons and significant quantities of harissa are exported to around 27 countries, including Italy, France, Germany, Algeria and Libya. The exported product is estimated at around 15,000 tonnes and harissa tops the halls of most food fairs. around the world.

health benefits!

Behind its spicy taste that can bring tears to those who are not used to consuming it, there are health benefits in harissa. “One of the most important components of harissa is pepper. To visualize the benefits of each food, the unit of measurement is 100 grams, which contains at least 3 grams of good quality carbohydrates, 3 grams of proteins, 7 grams of complex sugars, and 87 grams of water because it contains a significant amount of water, while 100 grams of harissa provide the body with 75 kilos of calories, which means that it does not provide not give the body a large number of calories,” confirmed Dr. Zubair Al-Shater, a nutritionist, in an interview with Raseef22.

Hareesa gives flavor to food and increases appetite. The heat of harissa is related to the quality of pepper, and it is beneficial to the body, especially by adding garlic, onions and spices .

تحتوي الهريسة، حسب ما أكد الدكتور شاطر، على الفيتامين (C) بمعدل 40 في المئة تقريباً والفيتامين (E) بمعدل 38 في المئة مما يحتاجه الجسم، وأيضاً الفيتامين (B1 و2 و5 و9)، وهي فيتامينات ضرورية لصناعة خلايا الدم من كريات حمراء وغيرها وأيضاً للدماغ، كما تتوفر في مادة الهريسة كمية مهمة من الأملاح والمعادن والكالسيوم والصوديوم حسب كمية الملح التي يتم وضعها في الهريسة، قصد تصبيرها، وأيضاً الفوسفور والبوتاسيوم والمغنيزيوم والحديد والزنك والسيلينيوم واليود بكميات متفاوتة، وتوفر 100 غرام فقط من الهريسة للجسم حاجته من معدن الحديد طوال a whole day.

Al-Shater explained that “harissa makes food taste good and opens the appetite for eating, and the heat of harissa is related to the quality of pepper, and it is beneficial to the body, especially by adding garlic, onions and spices which increase the immunity of the body, activate the white blood cells and give activity to the antibodies in the body, which are antibacterial and adapted to the cold.

The same is confirmed by Dr. Manal Al-Arfawy, a clinical nutritionist, in her interview with Raseef22, stating that “Tunisian harissa reduces inflammation in the body, helps burn fat, promotes blood circulation, reduces blood cholesterol and pepper relieves migraines, fights cancer and helps prevent gastrointestinal disorders.

According to Dr. Al-Arfawy, olive oil contains antioxidants, “omega-3s”, vitamin (E) and oleic acid. Its properties include maintaining weight, treating infections, relieving pain, maintaining healthy blood vessels and healthy cholesterol in the body. It also improves digestion and intestinal transit and helps reduce the risk of cancer, and garlic is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin (B6), vitamin (C), selenium, magnesium and potassium. .It fights bacteria and fungi, prevents cancer, reduces blood clots and lowers blood cholesterol.


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