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JEFF KOEHLER

  • writer
  • photographer
  • cook
  • traveler
August 15th, 2007

savor: Tunisia/ Tunis

DAR EL JELD
5-10, rue Dar el Jeld
La Kasbah
Tunis
216/71.560.916
www.dareljeld.tourism.tn

In the center of Tunis’s ancient medina is the country’s finest restaurant. It is also the most difficult to find. There’s no sign, just a massive studded yellow door. But knock and you are admitted into the authentic splendor – not Orientalist’s fantasy. It’s an 18th-century merchant’s home with detailed stucco work and tiles and wonderful patio. The family turned it into a restaurant in 1989, and it remains a family affair, with the grandmother running the all-female kitchen – probably the country’s only. (Traditionally woman cook at home and men cook in restaurants.) Start with tajine sebnekh. In Morocco a tajine is a stew while in Tunisia it’s a delicate, oven-baked egg dish, in this case with lamb and spinach. Lamb is a staple across North Africa, but here fish, too, is eaten frequently, more so than elsewhere in the Maghreb. Follow it by one of the house specialties, either the kabkabou, sea bream baked with preserved lemons, olives, and capers in thin tomato sauce, or the fish couscous. For desert there are ancient Arab crèmes – my favorite is acida mjamera made with the flea-sized black seeds of an Aleppo pine and scented with eau de rose.
Baroque perfection: kabkabou.
Start with: salade de poulpe, cold octopus salad.
Try: poisson sauce à l’anchois, fish in anchovy sauce.
Wave off: coffee and plunge back into the medina to sit in one of the traditional coffeehouses (the best is Ezzitani) and watch life pass by on the snaking footpaths.

Posted by jeffkoehler in  savor: Tunisia  |  

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