Ingredients: Cumin, coriander, garlic, caraway, Kashmiri pepper, anise, black pepper, salt.
Blending Tabel is definitely a serious matter. I have the same feeling of intimidation no matter how many times I have mixed it for the store, on the menus of the best chefs in the world, yet I’m always carefully measured and apprehensive about my Tunisian heritage. I know that Tabel in Tunisia is as important as knowing Huma al Huma (the national anthem).
Each region in Tunisia has its own Tabel, some add fennel but not anise, some add anise but not fennel. In Kef they will use more heat by being more generous with filfil zina (hot dried chili). Same in Bizerte, where they make the best spicy chakchouka… yes! You can witness the variations with each family and vendor--all cherish their heirloom recipe. Needless to say, all Tunisians agree on the main spices that make Tabel. Coriander, garlic, caraway, cumin, turmeric, salt, black pepper, chili, and anise or fennel--or both. Each one believes that he or she has the best way to mix this staple and the best technique to toast the ingredients. What goes first in the blend, and of course all the stories that come with it. As a Tunisian, woman or man, rich or poor, Tabel could be close to being your first love story.
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