Shakshouka (Arabic: شكشوكة, also spelled shakshuka, chakchouka) is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. Although the dish has existed in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, its more recent egg and vegetable-based form originated in Tunisia.
The word "Shakshouka" (Arabic: شَكْشُوكَةٌ) means "a mixture" in Arabic slang specifically in Tunisian Arabic. The word is derived from the Arabic verb شَكَّ translit. shakka, meaning "stick together, clump together, adhere or cohere".
Tomato-based stews were common throughout the Ottoman Empire in Egypt, Syria, the Balkans and the Maghreb. These stews were called shakshouka in the Maghreb. The Ottoman dish şakşuka was originally a dish of cooked vegetables with minced meat or liver (ciġer). Tomato and pepper were introduced to the dish later and meatless variations evolved. Jewish communities in the Ottoman Maghreb served a parve vegetarian variation and Tunisian Jews were known for creating spicy versions of egg shakshouka.
The exact origins of the dish are disputed. According to The Jewish Chronicle, some food historians believe the dish spread to Spain and the greater Middle East from Ottoman Turkey, while others think it originated in Morocco. A third theory is that it hails from Yemen, where it is served with sahawiq, a hot green paste.
Although the dish is not native to the Levant, it was brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews as part of the mass Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim lands, where it has become a staple due to large Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan communities. In Israel, shakshouka is made with eggs which are commonly poached but can also be scrambled like the Turkish menemen.
Some variations of shakshouka can be made with lamb mince, toasted whole spices, yogurt and fresh herbs. Others may include salty cheeses such as feta. Spices can include ground coriander, caraway, paprika cumin and cayenne pepper.
A 1979 Israeli cookbook Bishul la-Gever ha-Meshuhrar includes a recipe for "Lufgania Shakshuka". This is shakshouka made with a kosher version of Spam (called luf) that was added to IDF army rations in the 1950s.
According to food writer Claudia Roden, Tunisian cooks added artichoke hearts, potatoes and broad beans to the dish. Because eggs are the main ingredient, it is often on breakfast menus, but in Israel, it is also a popular evening meal, and may challenge hummus and falafel as a national favourite, especially in the winter.
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- Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 17 Nov 2010, By Gil Marks
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- "Shakshouka Recipe - Tunisian Recipes". PBS Food. 2015-03-12. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
- Raviv, Yael (November 2015). Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel. University of Nebraska Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8032-9023-5.
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