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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

African Countries

 Immigrants from other areas of the world

Algeria

People's Democratic Republic of Algeria

Also known as: Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Jazāʾiriyyah al-Dīmuqrāṭiyyah al-Shaʿbiyyah



Artistic Expressions- Culinary Arts


The cuisine of Algeria has been influenced by the interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries, a delicious mix of Mediterranean and North African cuisine with Berber roots and sprinkles of Andalusian Spanish, Turkish and French flavors, among other things.

Their cuisine offers a variety of dishes depending on the region and the season, but vegetables and cereals are a staple in all of them. Most Algerian dishes are centered around bread, meat (lamb, beef, poultry, fish), olive oil, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Vegetables are used for salads, soups, tajines, couscous, and sauce-based dishes. Of all the Algerian traditional dishes the most famous one is couscous, a type of pasta which is recognized as their national dish.

Algerians are very hospitable and encourage family and friends to share their food. Even unexpected visitors are greeted warmly and offered coffee at the very least. All meals (usually three a day) are leisurely and sociable affairs.

Traditionally, people seat at a low-to-the-ground table (called the tbla or mida), and food is eaten with the thumb, forefinger (pointer), and middle finger of the right hand (the left hand is considered unclean).

Using four or five fingers it's considered bad manners, as you would be overstepping the bounds of good taste. This is considered a sign of over-eating, and should be avoided. In a middle class family, meals might be a bit more elegant, and a servant or young family member might come to each individual at the table, offering a bowl of perfumed water to guests for washing their hands before the eating begins.

The country’s capital, Algiers, and most of the coastal towns in the North tend to have a wide variety of restaurants, particularly French, Italian, and Middle Eastern cuisine because they have a lot of tourists. Southern Algeria is geared less to accomodating these visitors than they are. Menus usually begin with either a soup or salad, followed by roast meat (usually lamb or beef) or fish as a main course, with fresh fruit commonly completing the meal. Some national favorites are couscous, dried fruit, stews, and sweet fruit drinks.

More information, and recipes, can be found on this page.




History

Algerian cuisine is derived from the various countries and ancient cultures that once ruled, visited, or traded in any way with the country throughout their history. The Berbers were one of the country's earliest inhabitants. Their arrival, which may have been as far back as 30,000 B.C., marks the beginning of wheat cultivation, use of smen (aged, cooked butter), and fruit consumption, such as dates. The introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians (who occupied much of northern Africa) led the Algerian Berbers to first create couscous, Algeria's national dish.

Muslim Arabs invaded in the 600s, bringing with them their exotic spices (saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon from the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia). They also introduced Islam to the Berbers. This religion influences almost every aspect of Algerian life, including their diet.

Olives (and as a result, olive oil) and some fruits such as oranges, plums, and peaches were brought across the Mediterranean from Spain during their invasion in the 1500s. The sweet pastries from the Turkish Ottoman culture, and tea from European traders also started their way into Algerian cuisine around the same time.

In the early 1800s, Algerians were forced to leave their land and surrender their crops and farmland to the French. They introduced their diet and culture, including their bread and sidewalk cafés.

Tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and various chilies, also widely used in Algerian local cuisine, were brought over from the New World.


What do their dishes taste like?

Their dishes can be either mild and delicate, or packed with flavorful seasonings. Ginger, saffron, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, and mint are essential in any Algerian pantry. No matter what they use, they are known to be delicious.

Some of the spices used in Algerian cooking are typical Mediterranean and Indian spices, such as red chilies, caraway, black pepper, cumin, fennel, ginger, coriander and star anise. Ras El Hanout is used also, which is a common Mediterranean spice mixture that varies dependent upon country and region. It might contain ingredients such as fenugreek, turmeric, cardamom, clove and cinnamon.

As a direct result of the events and influences in their history, Algeria boasts an unending supply of wonderful dishes. Including an assortment of stews, bread, meats, and pastries, all part of the vast profile of flavors that their culture has to offer.

Being an Islamic country, some ingredients are “haram” -forbidden. Typical Algerian food won’t have pork, for example. Even so, the people have managed to develop a cuisine that is well rounded and delicious, and each of their traditional meals is very distinctly Algerian, and amazingly cooked and seasoned.



Some dishes to try

Chakchouka


Couscous


Rechta


Dobara


Berkoukes


Chorba Frik


Bourek


Harira


Msemen


Kesra


Samsa


Tcharek


Makroudh

Griwech


For more recipes, see these playlists- here, here and here. Enjoy!


This is our last post on this wonderful country and its culture. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many places all over the world, and they deserve to be acknowledged.

Next week we go back to the Americas, and start our journey through Latin American countries and their cultures. Stay tuned to learn more about their history, customs, culture and art.






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