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North African ‘Brik’ With Tuna and Cilantro (Plus: Harissa)

June 09, 2021
North African ‘Brik’ With Tuna and Cilantro (Plus: Harissa)

When I was a student in Paris in the late 1960s, the food that I ate in Jewish homes was French, with accents of Alsace Lorraine or Eastern Europe—but food from North Africa was becoming more prevalent, in couscous restaurants and in street food. Today, at least 60 percent of the almost 600,000 Jews in France (the third-largest Jewish community in the world) come from Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. North African fare is now dominant among French Jews. As one French cook told me, in every “intermarried” Jewish family—where a North African Jew marries a European Jew—North African food predominates at holidays.

Featured in: How To Make ‘Brik,’ a Tunisian Treat That’s the Toast of Paris


For the brik

  • Two 5-ounce cans tuna in olive oil (preferably Cento brand, which is certified kosher)
  • 2hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 1cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1small onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1tablespoon pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1package brik leaves cut into 5-inch squares, or 5-inch wonton wrappers
  • 1egg, beaten
  • Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
  • Harissa or the hot sauce of your choice for dipping (I like the harissa from or see recipe below)

For the harissa

  • 2ounces dried hot red chili peppers, such as tiny New Mexican or cayenne
  • ½cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 8cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
Yield: About 48 brik


To make the North African ‘Brik’ With Tuna and Cilantro (Plus: Harissa)

  • Step 1

    Put the tuna in a mixing bowl with a little of the oil, and break it up with a fork. Fold in the hard-boiled eggs, cilantro, onion, crème fraîche or sour cream, pine nuts, and salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

  • Step 2

    Put a teaspoon of the filling near the bottom of a wrapper. Using your finger, brush the edges of the wrapper with the beaten egg and fold over the sides to enclose the filling. Roll up the package like a jelly roll, sealing by pressing the edges together with extra egg wash if needed. Put all the turnovers on a baking sheet, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to fry.

  • Step 3

    Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a wok or large sauté pan until the oil reaches about 375 degrees. Fry the brik in batches for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately, with a dab of harissa on top, or with a bowl of harissa alongside for dipping.

To make the Harissa

  • Step 1

    Cut the stems from the peppers, remove half the seeds, and soak the peppers in warm water until soft; drain, and squeeze out any excess water. Grind the peppers, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. The consistency should be that of a thick purée, and the color bright red. Put the harissa in a jar, pour the remaining olive oil over the top, then seal and refrigerate.

  • Step 2

    Let sit for a few days before using, until the harissa becomes less opaque and the flavors meld. Use sparingly—it is very hot!

  • Yield: About 1 cup