World, Africa

Kaak: Tunisia's quintessential Eid al-Fitr dessert

For generations, Tunisians have marked Eid al-Fitr holiday with traditional date-based dessert

17.06.2018
Kaak: Tunisia's quintessential Eid al-Fitr dessert

By Enes Canli

TUNISIA

The town of Hammam al-Ghezaz north of capital Tunis is not only known for its world-class beaches but also for its traditions -- culinary and otherwise -- handed down from generation to generation.

Since time immemorial, local residents have marked the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday by making -- and eating -- kaak, a bagel-shaped biscuit stuffed with dates.

Tunisian women, along with their young children, start preparing the kaak during the Ramadan fasting month.

Khadija bin Hammuda, 75, who spoke to Anadolu Agency while making kaak in her kitchen, says the taste of the traditional dessert had changed slightly since her youth.

She recalled how, when she was a child, kaak had been made with wheat. But after wheat became much more expensive, semolina flour began being used instead.

According to bin Hammuda, preparing traditional kaak had been a laborious process.

The wheat was first washed, dried and sorted out. Rosewater was then added to the sourdough, which was laid out for two days after being enriched with homemade butter.

While the dough used to be kneaded by hand, machines are now used for this purpose, bin Hammuda explained.

The base of the dessert, she went on to explain, is made from Tunisia's world-famous dates, which are basted in olive oil and mixed with sesame.

As some of the women work on the dough, others prepare the date base.

The biscuits are then garnished with decorative shapes, such as flowers, fish or the “Hand of Fatima” (“Khamsa” in Arabic).

The traditional oven used to cook kaak, known as a “Tabuna”, bears traces of the Phoenicians, who founded the ancient city of Carthage on the North African coast in the 9th Century BC.

The pieces of Kaak are then pasted to the sides of the oven, one by one, before the oven door is sealed.

Ten to 15 minutes later, the top of the oven is opened to allow steam to escape. Not long afterward, white smoke appears -- or “the kitten comes out”, as it is known in local parlance.

After being left to cool for a while in a dry place, the kaak is then ready for consumption, signaling the end of the fasting month and the start of the Eid.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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