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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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine November 17, 2009 at 6:45 am

Wow…this sounds fabulous. I’m totally intrigued by the pumpkin sauce and fried rolls. I already always make my own hamburger rolls and pita bread for sandwich fillings, so why not add fried rolls to the repertoire?!

Do you have any idea what’s in the preserved lemon sauce?

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Margit November 17, 2009 at 6:50 am

Another great post, Sarah, with great pictures (son did super job!) I’ve often eaten those sandwiches in Tunisia, but didn’t even know they were called Fricassee, always odered them as “Un de ces sandwichs s.v.p”. I have one question – you mention preserved lemon sauce… I know and love preserved lemons, but haven’t heard of that sauce yet. Could you tell me about it?

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Sarah November 17, 2009 at 10:03 am

I think the preserved lemon sauce was simply sliced preserved lemons and the curing liquid, I think its possible to see it on the far right corner of the picture. Usually I see the sandwhich served with just the lemon slices but the addition of the lemony curing liquid is very good.
My son took alot more pictures of the stray cat than he did the fricassee but he did do a great job :-)

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yael November 18, 2009 at 3:15 am

Great place. Erez and I eat there whenever we get the chance to get to Ramla.

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Cmiranda November 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Great post, nice pictures.Wish I was in Israel now so I can go to this place unfortunately have to wait till next year.But thanks for including the recipe for this delicious sandwich.

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Hannah @cookingmanager.com November 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm

What a beautiful post with lovely pictures. I am thinking about how long it took you to put this together! I love it when my kids help with my blog, your son did a good job.
By the way you listed pumpkin sauce twice.

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Sarah November 23, 2009 at 8:18 am

hannah, thanks! Are you referring to the blog or the fricasee? Either way it is time consumming but delicious! The second pumpkin sauce is the directions title but it does look like the continuation of the recipe list.

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Dana May 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm

I think you forgot to add water to : THE FRICASSEE BUNS.
CHECK AGAIN THE RECIPE YOU NEED TO ADD AT LEAST 1/12 -2 CUPS WATER

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Sarah May 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm

yes I did forget the water, woops, thanks for noticing

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oshri June 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

dear sara i just made those buns to a bunch of friends of mine here in miami,
it was amazing we are some israelis here and some of latin american.
every one loved it thank u so much for the recipe

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Sarah June 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

Oshri, So glad the recipe worked out well for you, thank you for telling me. It’s one of my favorite sandwiches.

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madeleine vital November 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

mmm i remember fricasse sandwiches from when I was a littlie girl and just the other day I called my aunt in israel for the receipe and wow still just as delecious made some today mmmmm…. glad to see that thre are other receipes will definetly try them…thanks

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Sarah November 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Thanks Madeleine!

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karima February 29, 2012 at 4:34 am

nice post ,usually fricasees small sandwiches here in Tunisia
but they taste so yummie i would eat 1 big as this one

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Sarah February 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

A smaller version of a fricasee sandwich sounds perfect

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Liz Toumi April 7, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thank you Sarah for the recipe, I’ve been craving fricassee for a couple of days now :-) I suppose there’s different versions throughout the country. I lived in Sfax, there the sandwiches were very small and tuna was almost like a powder consistency. If anyone else is wondering how to achieve the powder effect- all you need to do is drain the tuna very well, ring it out in a cheese cloth, and give it a whirl around your food processor a few times and voilà you have “tuna powder”!

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Sarah April 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

Thanks Liz for the tip on making powdered tuna! Will try it next time I make fricasee.

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amelia September 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm

im a pilipina but fricasse is one of my favorite,,,,working for 13 years with my employer they are from tunis. and her mom use to cook fricasse and really tasty…anyway as my opinion tunisian food is really great food but fricasse is the best..thanks i got the recipe of fricasse because since her mom died no one did so now i can do for them anyway………..thank you sarah

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Sarah September 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thank you Amelia for commenting. I agree with you about Tunisian cuisine, they have some wonderful food, especially the fricasse.

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