The Ultimate Tunisian Fricassee Sandwich

by Sarah on November 17, 2009

Ahla Tunisian Sandwich Shop, Eli's Competition

“And what about the pumpkin sauce?” asked Daniel the taxi driver “did you put pumpkin sauce in the fricassee?”

I was telling Daniel about my neighbor Evelyne’s wonderful Tunisian sandwich called fricassee and I definitely did not recall that she put any pumpkin sauce in it.

“No, we ate it without pumpkin sauce”

Daniel drew in his breath and shook his head.

“Without pumpkin sauce?” he answered incredulously” It’s not Fricassee without the pumpkin sauce! Wait, I have just the person to give you the recipe”

He then went on to call his favorite Tunisian client while cruising down the Ayalon highway and on an old shopping receipt I wrote down the ultimate recipe for pumpkin sauce.

That was almost a year ago and I never did get around to making fricassee but last week I was at the Ramla shuk which supposedly has the best fricassee joint in Israel. Actually, it has the two best fricassee joints, right across from each other, in steep competition as is the natural way of things at the shuk.

Back left is the famous pumpkin sauce, w/ and w/out harissa

Street scene near the sandwich shop

Like I promised my readers- a fricassee sandwhich

My mother who was visiting was not at all impressed at Eli’s little establishment, right at the entrance to the parking lot with all the dust and commotion but that didn’t seem to deter anybody. The place was packed. I took several pictures of the showcase with the reluctant permission of the owner and when I needed to take the critical picture the Tunisian sandwich masterpiece I ate it (sorry, but I was starving).  On my second visit, Eli was especially congenial, proud of being included in a newspaper article about successful small businesses which was published that day.

Eli with his tunisian sandwhich, on my second visit

It contained preserved lemon sauce, pumpkin sauce, harissa, olives, tuna, hardboiled egg, capers and fresh finely chopped vegetable salad. It was a complete delicious mess to eat, with juices dripping down my hands and all over the waxed paper it was served in. I promise my dear readers that I will go back to take a picture of it and then I will check out the competition. It just so happens that the owner married a Mexican so I wouldn’t be surprised if salsa verde is yet another topping offered in the future.

Eli's Sandwich Shop with all the Fixings

When we got back Evelyne invited my Mom to see how she makes the fried buns called fricassee. I was baking lahmajoon at the time so sent my 10 year old son, Alon to photograph her making them.

Fricassee

The French as well as Italians left their mark on Tunisian soil. The name fricassee comes from the French meaning fried and separated. This is an adaptation of the French baguette style bread but here the dough is first fried than separated and filled with the essence of Tunisia. In Italy Fricassee is a type of cut up stewed chicken. According to Chef Farid Zadi,  the street vendors improvised by frying the dough instead of baking it because they lacked ovens or didn’t  have access to the popular baguettes.

Pumpkin sauce

500 grams pumpkin

4 cloves garlic

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

¼ cup vegetable oil, such as canola

1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds

Juice of one lemon

Salt

The Fricassee buns

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons yeast

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg (optional)

1 1/4 cup water

Filling, approximately

2-3 boiled potatoes, cubed

4 boiled eggs, sliced

3-4 pickled cucumbers, sliced lengthwise

100 grams olives, pitted and sliced

100 grams, fresh or canned tuna

10 pickled lemons, quartered

Harissa

Pumpkin sauce

Roasted pepper salad

Pumpkin sauce

Cook the pumpkin and garlic in a little water until soft. Mash together with the remainder of the ingredients.

Fricassee buns

In a mixer, combine flour, oil, salt and egg if using. Add the yeast and while the machine is running slowly pour in the water, about 1 cup (if not using egg about 1 1/4 cups water). It might not be necessary to use all the water. Knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes, or until the dough does not break when stretched between two fingers. Cover and let rise in a warm place. After the dough has doubled its size, knead and form 20 balls. Shape the balls into elongated buns and leave them to rise for about 30 minutes or until they double in size.

In a deep pan heat the oil and fry the buns. The oil should come half way up the buns. When the buns are cool enough to handle, slice them and fill them with a bit of everything. They can be eaten hot or cold.

Son photographed stray cat eyeing the tuna


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