Monday, September 14, 2009


Nebil was kind enough to invite Oleg and me to join him in Iftar today, the ritual breaking of the fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

After a usually-argumentative metro ride, with Nebil telling me about the virtues and rules of Islam and my maintaining that I dislike _any_ organized religion (except perhaps the church of the FSM :)], we reached Belleville, the Tunisian part of Paris. (yeah, we have pretty much the same argument every day at lunch time, and had been missing it due to his fasts)

The streets were full of vendors selling all sorts of stuff, which people were purchasing on their way home to break their daily fasts. And that is when I saw something that made my eyes widen.


Yes, the multi-layered flat bread we make in India from unleaved flour cooked with a dash of oil.

And it tasted very similar too (Oleg bought some to share). And then another shock.


Yes, the deep-fried flat bread made from leavened flour and eaten classically with chholey.

We then went to a Tunisian Jewish store, which sold pretty much the same stuff as the other stores in the area, with the difference being the presence of wine, and that of Kosher foods. I got some Harissa, which I am looking fwd to using as a mirchi-substitute.

The iftar meal itself was also interesting, and very different from the desi stuff I used to have at Salahuddin uncle's place as a child [I _so_ miss those pakoras and chana :-( ]. The start was with dates and fermented milk (very similar to the buttermilk I have had in India, and the fermented milk in the Netherlands), which was automatically followed by a soup of rice, chickpeas, and lamb stock flavored with turmeric and coriander/cilantro leaves. This was followed by bric, which you can think of as a flat samosa filled with an egg and fish. Pretty interesting, and heavy.

After this traditional fast-breaking meal (apparently this is an every-evening affair), we were nearly full, but ordered a lamb dish that was more baked than roasted. It was amazingly well-cooked, and the taste reminded of lamb curries made from the Shaan brand of spices here. We topped it all off with some Boga Lime cola, the Tunisian version of Sprite/7up (and the inspiration of the name of Obi-wan's steed). Interestingly enough (and lucky for me), there were no beef dishes at all in the restaurant, since apparently the Tunisians consider beef to be "cheap meat", and prefer lamb.

We had planned to have tea afterwards, but the super-heavy downpour forced us to cut our evening short. Ah well.

Another evening well spent, utilizing this unique opportunity I have here. Makes my belief stronger that traveling and sampling other cultures is absolutely essential, and that world peace will come through dining together :).


  1. :P Sounds like an amazing meal ... and yes, "dining not dying" or maybe "grilling not killing" or "nom nom nom not bomb bomb bomb" could be good mottos ... or not?

  2. or (silly me *slaps forehead*):

    "Give peas a chance!"

  3. You lost me at the "fermented milk". I really, really dislike buttermilk (although I do like buttermilk pancakes - go figure).
    Love daen's "Give peas a chance". John would have been proud.

  4. I support your belief that traveling and sampling other cultures is absolutely essential.If not peace but equality can come through dining together. And from the huge discussion of 'Break''Fast' , it seems you have a huge apetite for delicious food. :-)

  5. all that food... and i have had not had proper meal since breakfast!

    note to self - make a trip to old delhi before ramzaan ends...

  6. @Daen: :-). Indeed.

    @Starman: I strongly recommend trying the Tunisian experience, even if you substitute the Buttermilk with Normal milk :).

    @Yayavar and Scribina: How about this food-map of India? I miss the variety of desi food :-(

  7. Anonymous10:03 PM

    as they rightly say,"the way to a man's heart is through his stomach".


  8. This food map of India is awesome. Thanks a ton for that.

  9. love it, animesh. i too agree that world peace and cultural understanding shall be achieved through food...
    hope your eye feels okay today. sending you lots of happy thoughts for a rapid recovery!!!

  10. Wanted to comment the day i read it but somehow got lost in the city.

    First of all - i love reading about food...and always love food reccos esp. when they are about cheap-and-good food. This one, though not a food recco, left me asking for more! May be some pictures. Didn't u click any? Why? And u click softies in cones all the time and flight food too?

    Amazing to know that u can find Iftar meals in Paris...and that too, such variety and so close to our Indian 'dishes'. And I recently read that 'samosas' are an Arabian import in India. Mughals brought samosa with them..and it was filled with Keema.

    So, in a way, u had the most authentic samosa version in Paris! How's that for 'completing the circle'?

    I also did a bit of Iftar hogging and here's a blog post on my trip to Mumbai's hottest Iftar lane - Mohammed ALi Road!