Did you know that Tagine in Tunisia looks like…

…that picture above? Yep, the frittata-looking one. When this tagine hits the table, anyone expecting a pretty Moroccan claypot tagine would be quite justified in tumbling down a hole which sounds like: huh? say that again?…what?! tagine?…no way can’t be!…no-no…no!…NOOOOoooooo. 

But this IS Tagine done Tunisian-style at Taste Tunisia in Hor Al Anz.  Those spongy strips tasted quite like a frittata with cubed potatoes and egginess going all around. Sadly, they didn’t have anywhere near the complexity or tender texture that Paula Wolfert’s description makes me think they should have had.

FYI, this very untagine-like tagine modelled for me at a Tunisian restaurant in Hor Al Anz, a restaurant that was fused at the neck with none other than a…billiards venue.

Now while the tagine was a miss, there were other dishes that stepped closer to my idealized notion of what sensuous cuisine would be served up in the Maghreb. Mind you, I’ve never been to Tunisia, so my guess is as good as anyone else’s who’s not been there. As with anything else, I’d reckon that eating a version sitting here in Dubai is nothing close to what the original might be back in Tunisia. But that said, there is a value in experiencing some version of the dish and put a ‘face’ to a food that you’ve only heard or read about, up until that time you can sort out your bank account and jet off to Africa.

Brika - Taste Tunisia - Dubai

The super crunchy triangle of Tunisian Brika, which is exactly the sort of phyllo parcel filled with tuna, herbs and egg that you’d hug your mailman for delivering to your doorstep. Squish it with some lemon and you’re ready to conquer the world.

Brika - Taste Tunisia - Dubai

The key element in this brika is a runny egg which I have enjoyed at this same restaurant once before. On this specific occasion, I learned the critical lesson that you’re not supposed to waffle around before eating your brika, because if you do…the egg continues cooking within and becomes stubbornly un-runny.

Here’s another winner, the Tunisian Kaftaji. A seemingly ordinary veggie paste fenced in with fries – but definitely far more complex than initial observation would have you imagine.

Tunisian Kaftaji  - Taste Tunisia - DubaiIt’s one of those dips that you just want to skim off with your fork and enjoy plain so you can sense the different flavours going in: roasted eggplant, infused with the bitterness of green peppers, the sweetness of onions and red peppers and the slightest touch of heat. Small tender bits of boiled egg added substance to the delicate, almost vegetarian pâté-like dish.

I’d tell you about the pretty awesome sounding merguez and cheese ‘makloub’ which was supposed to be baked like a pizza. Except for the heart-breaking fact that their ovens weren’t functioning that day. And that when you’ve got mediocre sausage, processed cheese, and a well-intentioned layer of diced capsicum bundled into a baguette, there’s usually nothing spectacular to say.

Merguez and cheese sandwich  - Taste Tunisia - Dubai

The Djerba Tunisian Rice with chickpeas, liver and chicken sparked memories of Cajun ‘dirty rice.’ If you like giblets—and I do—then this dish is worth having on the table.

Djerba Tunisian Rice  - Taste Tunisia - DubaiI can now imagine that the rice would have been even better with a few drops of spicy harissa to lubricate the grains, but for some unfathomable reason, I was completely stuffed and my tummy went off-duty at this most inconvenient moment.

I haven’t quite decided if this place is worth an entire lunch session beyond the kaftaji and brika. It’s one of those places you’d instantly write off because (a) it was dead for lunch. I was close to falling across the counter and skidding across the kitchen to announce my presence. Thankfully, a server emerged and saved me that hassle, and (b) …it was a billiards venue. It’s that 2-in-1 strategy which makes the food at gaming arcades or at bowling alleys outrageously mediocre.

Anyhow, in my books, any place with a name like Taste Tunisia and a menu that has a few specialities to bear testament to the name deserves a try, even if those specialities are squished between a slew of Spaghetti Bolognese and Four Seasons Pizza-sounding dishes.

Anyone tried any other Tunisian places in town? Like Al Malouf? (which incidentally has some pretty polarized reviews online…) I hear there’s one close to Deira City Centre? Help me out folks, there’s got to be more Tunisian yumminess in this city.

Taste Tunisia
Hor Al Anz. I’ve plotted an approximate location on my google map. Take the right after Ramada Hotel, then the first right, then left. Drive down the road, and Taste Tunisia will be on your…erm…I forget. But I promise it’s right there.)
Phone: 04-2978287
Menu available here.

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

9 thoughts on “Did you know that Tagine in Tunisia looks like…

  1. Grace says:

    There’s a great restaurant in Al Nahda, Dubai serving superb Tagine. The name of the restaurant is Fiesta Restaurant (nothing to do with Tagine or the place where it originates) but the Tagine taste and price is amazing. You should try it! Location is in Baghdad Street, close to NMC Hospital, near Istanbul Supermarket in Qusais.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @twitter-16447781:disqus – whoa, had no idea. Qusais is a gold mine! Thanks for letting me know, I’m going to check it out for sure.

  2. saleem says:

    Nice article at least learnt something about Tunisian food – what some dishes are called. Photos are tempting – keep clicking them and we get to eat out of them.

  3. simeon says:

    love this blog, but the directions are not the best. any chance you can upload maps? there’s nothing more disheartening than wandering around deira, lost, with your tummy rumbling away!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      Hi @disqus_SkjoG5DisN:disqus – here ya go. I will take your tip and start plotting my restaurants from now on. And whenever I get that evasive free day off, I will do the earlier posts as well. :) http://goo.gl/maps/YCUv7

  4. Didi says:

    I have made friends with a colleague of Tunisian origin and this is next on our food trip list (Just finished Korean food last Thursda)…so I shall let you know if these dishes are truly authentic :)

  5. MyCustardPie says:

    I always learn something from your posts – this is no exception. At least I will know what to order in a Tunisian restaurant!


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