It has been reported that thanks in part to General de Gaulle, there are more and better Algerian restaurants within the confines of the cities of Paris and Tel Aviv than in Algiers. What confounds the French, but what Israelis have taken for granted for many years is that the foods found in the homes of former Algerians is so variegated one might easily be convinced that Algeria boasts three completely separate culinary styles.
The solution to this puzzle is simple enough. What is put on one's table depends on whether the restaurant one has entered is owned by someone whose roots are Saharan, urban Moslem or Jewish. Even though there are commonalties, there are also enormous differences in the cookery of the three groups. The major culinary contribution of the Algerian Bedouins to cuisine is the delicious mechoui, whole very young lamb rubbed with spices and spit roasted. Urban Moslems devised an enormous variety of delicately herbed stews (tagines), and the input of the Jews was in adapting French sauces and cooking methods to traditional North African cuisine.
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Sources: Embassy of Israel; Israeli Foreign Ministry; Ruth's Kitchen; Manischewitz; Rogov's Ramblings- Reprinted with permission.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.