December 29, 2020 by Ebastores editorial team
Harissa origin, A delicious wonder
Harissa, what is the first thing that you think of? Food, dress, place, name, etc? Take a few minutes. Think about it and write down your answer. If “food” is your answer, then you are a genius. Taking you back to the Mediterranean cuisine, you may get thrilled to learn about a new spice called “harissa”. In North Africa, harissa found its home and origin. Tunisia is the first country to produce harissa spice and paste. Have you ever been to Tunisia? If yes, then you would have given it a try. The funniest part about this, harissa is more popular than Tunisia. People always think about their tummies first and foremost.
We would like to invite you on a very short voyage to Tunisia and discover with us harissa. Would you join us? You will get amazed by the immense health benefits of this spicy wonder.
Many dieticians and doctors praise the Mediterranean diet. Why so? The presence of Olive oil, harissa, garlic, and other beneficial species made the Mediterranean diet a unique lifestyle to live longer. Harissa is a must add-in ingredient to your kitchen.
Tunisians have inherited some magical secrets from their elders. Their Tunisian cuisine got the attention of the world after the spread of Covid-19. Many doctors and researchers were astonished to find out that the Tunisian immune system could react positively against the virus. You may wonder: Is it funny to find out that harissa is a new savior? Would it be possible to find a cure in Tunisian cuisine? I, myself not very sure to give an accurate answer. I have inherited some tricks from my grandma and it worked well with me when I fall sick or suffer from the flu. Our ancestors praise our spices and they think of it as a real blessing on earth.
Harissa is an essential ingredient of every Tunisian kitchen. This marvelous blend is used in many dishes. Many Tunisian housewives think that harissa is a magical key ingredient to flavor every dish they prepare. Besides, they inherit many traditional recipes to make their harissa paste very unique and spicy. Are you eager to make a Tunisian sandwich? The ingredients are easy to find and won’t take more than 5 minutes to make your sandwich. It is best served with olive oil, tuna, olives, cheese, and boiled eggs. Harissa cannot be eaten or tasted plain. You should mix harissa with olive oil or cheese. It is too hot and spicy if you are a new fan.
Harissa's recipes differ according to regions. The Tunisian harissa is the most popular recipe in the Mediterranean basin. If you want to taste it, you should find harissa near you or order it online. You can still get the Tunisian brands and our company will take care of your shipment. What makes our harissa unique is the miraculous ingredients mixed with the chili paste. Olive oil is the best to be combined with harissa paste. Can you imagine this spicy wonder mixed with olive oil? I bet you won’t resist its flavor.
Why harissa? how to prepare a harissa recipe at home?
As mentioned above, some Tunisians think that harissa is a cure to COVID-19. It sounds like a joke. Harissa is seen as a cure for the flu and cold. Many housewives believe in the magic of harissa to cure their offspring’s. According to their mythical reading, harissa is mixed with garlic and olive oil. This combo is a miraculous cure to treat cold and flu. In winter, Tunisians enjoy eating some famous traditional dishes like “lablabi” and “S’haan Tounsi”. Those two dishes are on the top list of Tunisian cuisine. Harissa is a key ingredient.
Back to the usage of harissa to fight COVID-19, we cannot give a scientific approach to illustrate these facts. However, as a Tunisian, I may think about it twice. I still remember my mom's recipes to prepare harissa. She prefers to use harissa in our daily food servings more than anything else. According to the mythical readings, Harissa is a cure for all. Surprisingly enough, Harissa has played a vital role to make our immune systems a little stronger.
Borrowing some Tunisian recipes from my grandma’s cuisine, I would like to share the following home-made harissa.
Grandma’s Harissa is always the best
- Dried chilies
- Olive oil
- Cloves of garlic
- 1/ tablespoon of ground coriander
- 1/table spoon of caraway seeds
- 1/table spoon of salt
- You should first remove the seeds of chilies and soak them in water for 30mints.
- Mash the garlic and salt
- Add the chilies and mix it with other ingredients until you get your paste of harissa.
- Add olive oil, blend it.
A brief history
What is harissa? Even though this spicy paste is now consumed by nearly a quarter of the world’s population, lots of people still have no idea that it exists. Harissa is more than just a condiment. It can be a dish by itself with no additives.
Harissa originates in Tunisian cuisine. Though no archives have recorded the first emergence of the spicy blend on Tunisian soil, different sources mention the Spanish colonization in 1535. It is more likely that the Moriscos, fleeing to Africa at the time, brought along this sizzling spice and integrated it into the local cooking habits. With time, it gained a reputation among North African eating customs and it soon became part and parcel of these countries' diets.
There are now various harissa varieties, each one corresponds to one of the Maghreb's regions. The Libyans developed a super sweet harissa paste. They usually use mild peppers to avoid the hot taste. The Algerian variety is a unique condiment too. According to food columnist and cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman, it is a distinguished blend and differs from the one produced in Tunisia. Morocco, on the other hand, uses it as a side condiment.
The Tunisian type is widely consumed and globally recognized. There exist multiple brands abiding by high-quality standards and earning international priority.
The Tunisian harissa brands
One of the biggest exporters of this paste, Tunisian production of harissa is estimated to reach more than twenty-two million tonnes. The following is a list of the most common premade brands:
- Cap Bon
- Le Petit Paris
The Tunisian government established the Food Quality Label to protect the local variety from imitations. The label found on canned harissa bottles is a guarantee of the origin, quality, and unique recipe. Five companies are already certified and are now competing internationally for the first rankings. They are Sicam, Jouda, Comocap, Carthage food, and Sticap. This label seeks to promote the specific Tunisian recipe comprising of often baklouti chili peppers, caraway seeds, coriander, salt, and garlic. The preferred peppers for use are those grown around Nabeul and Gabes, the two cities most famous for homemade harissa. This blend, streamlined into the Tunisian genetic code, is now people’s new favorite spice worldwide not only because of its super tasty nature but also because of its related health benefits.
The exclusive ingredient:
Chili pepper is the essence of the harissa paste or sauce. Archeological evidence traces the existence of this plant to Central and South America where different varieties have been cultivated for over seven thousand years. Columbus brought them to the rest of Europe beginning of the fifteenth century. Later, peppers crossed the Mediterranean and inhabited Africa and Asia. Different cuisines around the world are known for their hot and spicy food due to their heavy use of peppers in multiple forms. Though it is widely used; only a few countries have discovered the unique flavor of harissa, the ultimate pepper blend. For most people, it is the one condiment that they cannot give up on.
The rest of the ingredients, used mainly in the Tunisian recipe, contain great health benefits too. They are rich in vitamins and minerals.
In one tablespoon of harissa, there exist the following nutrients:
Calories in this paste come mainly from fat; approximately 32 calories steam from the fat of olive oil. However, you can ditch oil from your homemade harissa paste or simply order a brand that does not include oil in its recipe.
Health advantages of harissa:
Is harissa good for you? Can it have side effects? Can it be used on its own? Can people with special conditions eat this paste without fear of anything going wrong? Are you eager to know more? Keep reading to find out more.
This amazing ingredient can surprise you with its abundant benefits. One ingredient responsible for such generosity is capsaicin, an active chemical component of chilies. Capsaicin stimulates a faster work of metabolism. It can be a good deterrent to constipation so make sure to spice your food a bit. Besides, once metabolism is boosted by around eight percent, you will burn more calories than usual. Put a dose of harissa in your meals and enjoy the result of losing a bit of extra weight or at least keep it steady.
The same component can control blood pressure and keep it at low levels because it loosens up the vessels; an essential step to protect the heart from sudden strokes…etc. The heat can also help in the process of clearing up mucus from your stuffed-up nose or lungs. Harissa paste can keep your blood levels of insulin under control, thus preventing type two diabetes or at least inhibit further damage.
Capsaicin can even stop the spread of prostate cancer. This has been scientifically proved after animal testing. Chili peppers normally kill bacteria hence protecting you from stomach ulcers. Besides, this compound is a recognized treatment for osteoarthritis. It is a natural pain killer that can alleviate much of your suffering.
This phenomenal mixture is rich with antioxidants which renders it quite useful in the fight against chronic diseases. These particles can eliminate dead and damaged body tissues or what is scientifically labeled free radicals leading to oxidative stress.
The different ingredients that make up this paste are full of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, and copper. Those vitamins and minerals are a great boost to your immune system.
This spice is safe to eat for pregnant women, though you must pay attention to how much you eat because it can aggravate the situation if you are suffering from heartburn.
Harissa, A new wonder to discover
Many psychologists and nutritionists have associated dietary habits with personality traits. (Raynor Levine, 2009). This potential relationship between food choices and personality is examined in the Big Five personality traits or the OCEAN model. The theory suggests five factors: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. (Costa McCrae, 1992). Studies have also examined taste preferences to personality dimensions. Individuals who prefer sweet foods, for instance, are considered more friendly and caring than other people (Meier, Moeller, Riemer-Peltz Robinson, 2012). Those who prefer capsaicin-containing foods have ‘’the need for varied, novel and complex sensations and experiences’’ (Zuckerman, 1964). Based on the 2013 Penn State study, people with heat-seeking personalities are ''big risk-takers''.
The culture of spices is older than 7000 years. They were very valuable and known as ‘’a royal luxury’’ (Keay 2006). As early as 15 C, the spice trade was set up to import this dynamic element from Asia to Europe. Before finding their way to Europe, spices were largely cultivated and used throughout India and required specific knowledge about the soil, temperature, and species. This is a list of the major spices:
Cardamom, the ‘’Queen of Spices”, is made of the seeds of different plants in the ginger family. The exotic spice is recognized for its aroma and complex intense taste of sweet and spicy. The fruit is used in traditional medicine and as a flavoring element in food.
Cloves originated in the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, made from the pink flower buds. It has a strong mixed flavor.
Black pepper, King of Spices, is a ‘’flowering vine’’. The fruit while usually dried and used in cooking comes with many health benefits.
Caraway, meridian fennel, is among the dominant spices and is known for its strong smell and taste.
Coriander, also called Chinese parsley. Its dried seeds are used in cooking as flavorsome to soups and salads.
Cumin is an aromatic spice that comes from the Cumin family. It has a warm and slightly bitter flavor with a bit of sweetness.
Bay leaf is a green fresh herb. It is an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes.
Fennel is a light brown spice that is usually used dry in cooking. The plant is highly beneficial and known for its sweet and anise-like taste.
Garlic is widely used as a spice. The versatile fruit is often added to dishes to offer a unique flavor and aromatic taste.
Thyme is an earthy herb native to the Mediterranean area. The popular plant can be used either dry or fresh to flavor soups and meat.
Turmeric is part of the ginger family, generally used to add color to food thanks to its yellow-colored chemical curcumin. The flavor-filled spice is recognized for its medicinal properties.
Everything you should know about peppers and harissa chili mix
Have you ever tasted red chili pepper? Are you familiar with spicy sauces, spice, and blends? Scroll down to learn everything about Tunisian peppers.
Dried peppers can be smokey, sweet, and hot. It has different shapes and sizes. In Italy, chili flakes are added to pasta and tomato sauces in pizza. In Syria, Turkey, and Tunisia dried chilies are used in nearly every dish.
Peppers, particularly chili peppers, are used to add more flavor, depth, and spice to our food just like herbs and spices. Economically speaking, peppers are largely cultivated in many countries around the world covering around 1.93 million/ ha with over 34 million tons production in 2017 ( Penella and Calatayud, 2018). The Mediterranean and especially Tunisian cuisine are based on fresh vegetables and fruits. Indeed, most of the Tunisian pepper varieties are imported hybrids belonging to C. annuum species ( Zhani et al, 2015). Local pepper cultivars are mainly Baklouti Essahel, Rouge Long, Chaabani, M’ssareh, Fort de Korba, Baklouti Kairouan, and Piment sesseb (Mansour-Gueddes et al, 2010). Tunisians tend to use spices made from chili peppers such as Harissa, a hot paste made most often with a blend of dried red chilis, oil, and other spices. This popular condiment is used in most North African cuisines, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Other Mediterranean countries have their hot sauces such as Zhoug, also known as sahawiq or bisbas, which is a spicy cilantro sauce of Yemenite origin. Its main ingredients are coriander, cloves, parsley, and green chili. Romesco, a Spanish traditional sauce used on seafood and based on red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and olive oil. Provencal mayonnaise-like sauce is a French spicy sauce that has a garlic flavor and yellow color. Shatta is an appetizing Levantine hot sauce mainly served with Koshari. FilfelChuma also called “pilpelshuma" or "maser” (‘’pepper garlic’’) is an intensely spicy condiment from the Libyan Jews of Tripoli. Powdered hot peppers, garlic, caraway seeds, and cumin are the main ingredients of the paste.
The most popular hot sauces in the world
- Buffalo sauce, an American sauce, is a blend of hot paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and butter.
- Salsa Roja is a Mexican spicy sauce and is made of tomato, onion, garlic, and pepper.
- Cholula hot sauce is a Mexican brand paste based in Connecticut.
- El Yucatec, a Mexican hot sauce, is made of about 90 percent habanero pepper.
- Aji Criollo is a combination of hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, cloves, and water.
- Peri-Peri is an African hot chili sauce. The exotic sauce is served with seafood and meats.
- Shito, which means pepper in the Ghanaian language, is a delicious savory pepper sauce from Ghana. The traditional hot sauce goes with everything and can be eaten with rice, yam, etc.
- Doubanjiang, the "soul of Sichuan cuisine" is a spicy Chinese bean sauce made from chili peppers, beans, and soybeans.
- Gochujang is a traditional Korean unique condiment; it has a mixed flavor of sweetness and spiciness.
- Awaze, "Spicy Simmer sauce", is an Ethiopian hot paste, made with berbere spice, beer, arak, and honey.
- Bunsters is Australia's favorite hot condiment, made of capsicums and goji berries.
- Molho de pimento is a Brazilian salsa, made with malagueta pepper as an essential ingredient.
- SosTi-Malice is a famous Caribbean spicy paste from Haiti, made from Scotch Bonnet chili peppers and served with meat, fish, and other dishes.
In her book Food Culture in the Mediterranean, Carol Helstosky wrote “Mediterranean food is incredibly popular”. The dynamics of Mediterranean cuisine is the product of multiple cultural interactions and exchanges. The food is therefore based on a wide variety of spices and ingredients found in various regions of the sea. This unique combination of healthy and flavorful ingredients is what makes Mediterranean food so distinct and well accepted across the globe.
Being a new fan of Mediterranean cuisine is never an easy task. We should learn and search for the various ingredients used in their cuisines. Every country has its unique spices and blends. Harissa became a new wonder for many chefs, dieticians, doctors, and researchers. The growing importance of harissa led us to investigate many aspects of this miraculous wonder. COVID-19 got the attention of the world. According to the mythological readings of Tunisians, harissa is a cure to combat this deadly virus. They proudly praise their harissa for getting a strong immune system. As mentioned above, harissa is very unique to Tunisians, and its health secrets remain a big question mark.