Supermarket Explorer: Harissa

By Aurelia d'Andrea March 24, 2014 Categories: Supermarket Explorer, What Do I Do with...


Take a look inside my refrigerator and one thing becomes immediately clear: I’m a condiment fanatic. Lined up in not-too-tidy rows are mustards (potent and mild), ketchups (spicy and regular), barbecue sauces, tangy chutneys, Indian pickles called achar, garlicky tapenades, jars of funky fermented bean curd, Tabasco-like sauces galore, and probably my most-used condiment, harissa.

I’d like to say that I discovered the bright-red paste on my first and only trip to Morocco a few years back, but the truth is that I’ve been eating the imported stuff you squeeze out of a tube for more than a decade—long before I visited North Africa, where harissa originates. (Besides Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria have their own traditional takes on the spicy sauce.)

This hot condiment is not like any other. It has a slow-burn quality, with the haunting flavor mélange of coriander and garlic following just behind the red-pepper kick. I slather it on roasted potatoes, rice-and-vegetable dishes, and, of course, couscous. Harissa is so good, though, that it deserves a more prominent place at the table, rather than being relegated to a supporting role.

These recipes from the VT vaults showcase the sultry, spicy flavors of whatever harissa you’ve got on hand. I buy mine at my neighborhood supermarket, and sometimes at Middle East import stores, where it’s sold in cans, tubes, and—once in a while—freshly made in refrigerated tubs. As the weather turns warmer, I recommend doing like the locals do in more sun-splashed climates and activating your internal cooling system with an extra dose of sweat-inducing spice.






Aurelia d’Andrea’s passion for travel is deeply intertwined with her love of food. Whether in Perth, Prague, or Phnom Penh, she always gravitates toward local markets in search of edible treasures, and takes pleasure in re-creating tasty travel memories at home in her tiny Parisian kitchen.

Next Previous | Next Previous