Tunisian Lablebi (Lablabi)
People might think of Tunisia as a tropical place, but the fall and winter months can get quite damp and cold. I still vividly remember one October night having to sleep in my winter coat in El Kef! (The houses there are designed perfectly for the summer heat, but the chilly winters? Not so much...)
While dining out isn't a huge part of Tunisian culture, street food and fast food are popular throughout the country- from roadside mechoui stands to crêpe counters to melaoui carts.
And then there's lablebi: the quintessential Tunisian fast food. Now don't let the "fast food" label turn you off. It's prepared quickly in casual cafeteria-style joints but the food is anything but unhealthy. Lablebi is traditionally served quite simply, as it's a dish meant to provide sustenance for cold days, using frugal ingredients. Chickpeas and their spiced broth provide a hearty dose of protein and stale bread is brought back to life in the liquid. Over the years, the dish has evolved into an "instagram-worthy" bowl of various colorful toppings, all which add to the deliciousness of lablebi.
Recipe for Tunisian Lablebi
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 cups whole, dry chickpeas
3 ½ -4 cups water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 whole eggs poached
Harissa and/or crushed red pepper flakes
Stale bread or fresh kesra torn into small pieces
Tuna, Olives, Egg, Harissa, Capers, Pickled vegetables
Place chickpeas in a large bowl and add water. Allow the chickpeas to soak overnight. Make sure chickpeas are fully covered by the water.
Pour the chickpeas and the water they soaked in into a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, partially cover and allow to simmer until very tender. Skim any foam that may develop at the surface.
*Note: This may take 30-40 minutes, but you will know they are done when you can easily smash them between your fingers and some of the skins start to separate from the chickpeas.
Once the chickpeas are fully cooked, add the salt, pepper, and cumin. Stir and remove from heat.
Serve hot in a bowl and add your preferred garnish. You can go simple and traditional with just pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil. Or go all out and add the stale bread to soak up the broth, a generous spoonful of harissa, some good quality Tunisian tuna, and a poached egg to top it all off.