TUNISIAN DELIGHTS – Mediterranean food with a Twist of Passion
Tunisia might be the smallest country in Africa but it certainly gave birth to the “biggest personality” in the street market scene in Cape Town. Who has not met Moncef, the proud owner of Tunisian Delights? If you have not heard him bellowing over a crowd of regular customers, offering onlookers handfuls of tasters or simply charming you with his Mediterranean smile, then you have not lived. So where does this passionate person come from?
Moncef Messaoud grew up in the rural subsistence farming valley south of the capital Tunis with his many brothers. He remembers a hard but simple upbringing and working on the farms that grow fruits, dates, olives, nuts, wheat and barley during the day. Back then food was still processed well into the night and he remember peeling the shells off nuts with his father so that they could sell it on the weekend street market. He speaks of the freshness of produce, the Arabic spices, and the unique style of cooking in this region, how Tunisians don’t eat processed foods and how they live and eat the “from farm to table” concept.
But Moncefs “go-getter” personality got the better of him. He told his father he wanted to see the world and to discover a bigger purpose in life. He left the family farm and small community and joined the United Nations after school, where he worked and travelled. On such a trip he visited Cape Town and states “that it was love at first sight”. Without doubt nor hesitation he returned to Tunisia to fetch his wife and children to start a new life in South Africa. Life was hard when he arrived here. Not finding employment with a suitable enough salary he was faced with the challenge of supporting his large family. He took on whatever he could find and through sheer perseverance managed to loan a car with tow bar, a trailer and a Gyro Rotisserie. He squeezed all his family in that vehicle, drove to Stellenbosch Slowmarket and with ambassadorial diplomacy asked for one small chance to open a food stand. The rest is history.
Tunisian Delights showcases his heritage and passion for the Mediterranean with touches of Arabic flavors. It’s all there. Shawarmas with lamb slow cooked for 24 hours, Couscous Salads, plump Phyllo rolled Laffas, Vegan curried Rotis, Mezze Tzatziki, Spanakopita and Dolmades, Pesto chicken sandwiches. It is all there. Whatever you order, ask for Harissa hot chili pepper paste on the side. This basic flavoring agent in Tunisian cuisine is taste explosion of roasted red, serrano, chili peppers with garlic, coriander seed, saffron, rose, caraway and olive oil. We asked him what the key to his success is: He smiles, remains humble and says “to always say thanks to Allah”.