In my opinion, the prize for most colorful, balanced, freshest, most delicious, and most exciting of all Mediterranean street foods goes to Tunisian leblebi. A souplike meal-in-a-dish, it consists of a large bowl of torn stale bread covered with long-simmered chickpeas, a boiling rich broth made with the trotters or bones of veal, and medium-cooked eggs, with the whites firm and the yolks still runny. It is served under an ample amount of the famous Tunisian hot sauce harissa, topped with
Leblebi is found in hole-in-the-wall stalls in cities and towns throughout Tunisia. The dish is usually served as a breakfast and is almost always cooked by men for men. I eat it whenever I go to Tunisia, enjoying the atmosphere of male camaraderie, the delicious flavor, the reasonable price, and its aroma so early in the morning.
Happily, leblebi is a dish that travels well. And you can enjoy the leblebi experience at home without veal or lamb trotters or a bunch of Tunisian men smoking as they eat it. Whether I serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, people usually ask for more. In the words of Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.