Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – Algerian Style
Half the fun of any vacation is sampling the local cuisine. So please, whatever you do, do not travel all the way to Algeria just to have a pizza or an imitation Big Mac. Whether you enjoy it in a restaurant or eat it on the fly when purchased from a street vendor, traditional Algerian cuisine is what you should be after: a mouthwatering combination of Berber, Turkish, French, and Arab tastes – typically either extremely mild or packed with flavorful and often spicy seasonings. Ginger, saffron, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, and mint are essential in any Algerian pantry.
Couscous — the national dish — is often mistaken as a grain itself, rather than pasta. The pasta dough is a mixture of water and coarse, grainy semolina wheat particles. The dough is then ground through a sieve to create tiny pellets. Algerians prefer lamb, chicken, or fish to be placed on a bed of warm couscous, along with cooked vegetables such as carrots, chickpeas, and tomatoes, and spicy stews. Couscous can also be used in desserts by adding a variety of ingredients, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, dates, and figs.
Bread is a staple of any Algerian meal. And thanks to the French occupation of Algeria over a century ago, French loaves of bread are the norm. Like many Middle Eastern culture and customs, bread is often used to scoop food off one’s plate or to soak up a spicy sauce or stew. More traditional Berber families usually eat flat, wheat bread.
Mechoui — roasted lamb cooked on an outdoor spit — is usually prepared when a large group of people gets together to socialize or eat a big meal. The lamb is seasoned with herb butter so the skin is crispy and the meat inside is tender and juicy. Mechoui is usually garnished with dried fruits and vegetables and served with bread.
Beverages such as mint tea are a favorite among all North African countries. Tea is usually offered to visiting guests, though coffee flavored with cardamom is another option. Apricot nectar is especially popular with children. Sharbats, fruit or nut-flavored milk drinks, are popular with all ages, including sahlab, a sweet, milky drink.
Traditional Berbers, in particular, prefer drinks made from goat milk. Basbousa (Egyptian semolina cake), tamina (roasted semolina with butter and honey), and sweetened couscous are just a few sweets enjoyed by the Algerians.
So remember, the same adage that applies to Rome, applies to Algeria. When you travel to Algeria, eat the local cuisine. Some dishes may take a little getting used to, but in the long run you’ll impress you’re Algerian hosts and learn a bit about the culture at the same time.