“If you like spicy food, you will love Tunisian cuisine.” I have spoken about food with a lot of people across the country and outside, but this is the first time I am talking with an Ambassador about the cuisine of his country. But His Excellency Nejmeddine Lakhal, the ambassador of Tunisian Republic, is unike any other, he not only talks about his food with much love but also ensures that all his guests are well fed and are having a great time.
I had always known that Tunisia is a little gem in the Mediterranean with blue waters, clear sky and very, very good looking men. But, last night I discovered that Tunisia is a treasure trove of amazing flavours also.
Ambassadors, diplomats, officials, and celebrated chefs, I am in great company at the Capitol Kitchen in Taj Palace. There is ruffle of silks, clinking of champagne flutes, and a friendly banter, it is after all the opening night of The Tunisian Food Festival. Full of flavors, colours, and textures, Tunisian Cuisine is a treasure yet to be discovered by the main stream food circuits, and that makes it even more special. “Our food is influenced by Arabic and Mediterranean flavours”, says chef Munir Aram who has travelled especially for the festival, while showing us the spread.
Arab, Italian, Jewish and Turkish cuisines have had the maximum impact on the food traditions of the country, even today the culinary practices reflect these influences. Wheat, olives, meat, fish and seafood, spices and pepper form an integral part of local gastronomy. All of this is reflected in the large, colourful spread.
We begin the evening with a special mint tea. Light and refreshing, it sets the mood for the rest of the evening. The salads come next : Mosaic — a melange of potatoes, peas, carrots and mild spices is light and fresh, Mechouia Salad comes next. Made with grilled vegetable, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic it is fuller. The main courses start with Couscous.
Often touted as the centerpiece of Mediterranean cuisine, Couscous is also an integral part of Tunisian table. Served with fish or meat, with spices, peppers, it is flavourful and grainy. Tajine, probably the second most important part of the cuisine is next in order. made with eggs and fish (also vegetables because this is India), it turns out to be my most favourite part of the spread. There is Kalamari Curry, Borghol jari, and many many amazing new things.
For the sweet lover in me though, it is the dessert counter that seems most alluring: sesame balls, date with almonds, almond rolls, Kaak Ouarka and Baklava are some I recognize, rest I just eat.
The Tunisian Food Festival is on at The Capitol Kitchen in Taj Palace, New Delhi until the 9th December, do not miss the opportunity to sample the flavours.