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Tunisian Chickpea breakfast dish

In a recent episode of the travel show aired on public television (alternative stations in the PBS network?) "Globetrekker" featuring unusual and favorite foods from around the world, one of the guides while in Tunisia had a chickpea soup for breakfast called "Leblebi" or something like that.

It consisted of boiled chickpeas, and once spooned into a bowl, was topped with chili sauce, cumin powder, salt, oil, a raw egg, small bits of what looked like canned tuna, and capers. Is this dish for real?

Does the heat from the cooked chickpeas cook the egg? The combination of ingredients caught me off guard. Does this combination really work? Has anyone ever made this dish?

I can't imagine raw eggs mixed into the hot chick peas a good combination.
Is there some other version of this dish without the tuna and the eggs? Is this version unique to Tunisias taste?

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  1. i eat eggs with spicy beans all the time. add them, scramble a bit, and let the heat from the beans finish the eggs. eggs, tuna and capers are all in nicoise salad, so i don't know quite what you find so odd here.

    1. I saw that show too. I looked like they added a partially cooked egg.

      2 Replies
      1. re: knuckles

        Interesting observation. What I noticed from the camera work, was that everything other than the chickpeas which were scooped out of a huge pot of boiling liquid, was in its own small bowl from which the dish was assembled. When it came time to add the eggs, an uncracked egg was removed from its brethren and cracked and the resulting yolk and white fell into the chickpeas. Unless one knows the assembly and preparation of this dish, there was no way to tell (that I can think of) that these eggs were partially cooked, but that would make sense. I didn't know that raw eggs could be cooked so quickly just from the heat of chickpeas.

        The mixture of this dish that seemed odd, wasn't a bean plus egg mixture, but the choice of chick peas plus eggs. I just think of the taste of chick peas different from that of other beans, but perhaps with the addition of the cumin and the chili sauce, the chick peas would take on a different taste. I hadn't thought of chick peas and tuna fish as pairable foods, but perhaps that combination just takes getting used to!

        1. re: FelafelBoy

          in college, the dining hall prepared foods were so awful that i ended up eating tuna mixed with chickpeas several times a week! where was all that room and board money going, anyway? In any case, back to the topic actually at hand, i've had lablabi before, at the home of a friend who did field work in Tunisia, and all the flavors and foods do add up really yummily.

      2. Over one year later, I heard this dish discussed on a radio food program. The dish is called, "Lablabi," and is a Tunisian chickpea soup.

        3 Replies
        1. re: FelafelBoy

          It sounds REALLY good. Have you tried it yet?

          1. re: FelafelBoy

            never had that soup, but on the chickpea and tuna front, i sometimes sub chickpeas for the white beans in a tuscan-style tuna and bean salad and it tastes great. so chickpeas and tuna can go together.

            i think the soup sounds delicious!

            1. re: FelafelBoy

              It's on the menu at Cafe Zitouna in San Francisco, spelled lablaby there. Haven't been in early enough to order it before it runs out in the morning.

              (the cafe is currently closed until Ramadan ends


              Cafe Zitouna
              1201 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            2. Here's a recipe link I found: http://chef2chef.net/news/club/vol9/r...

              If you're squeamish about the raw egg, just coddle it on top of the simmering garbanzos. The above recipe uses hard boiled, so I think it's about personal preference.

              The ingredients combo reminds me a bit of Italian tuna and bean salad.

              1. i love cracking a raw egg into a big steaming bowl of ramen.

                it doesn't cook to what you would be used to, but it adds an amazing richness.

                at least in asia, it's commonplace to eat raw egg.
                i guess salmonella doesn't exist over there..................

                1. Actually the chili sauce is Harissa. You can eat your leblebi without eggs if you want. I personally eat the chickpeas soup with bread , spices and harissa only .

                  1. After seeing this updated thread, I remembered that I haven't yet tried the version at Cafe Zitouna, mentioned by Melanie below, and also recalled that I didn't remember eating it when I was in Tunisia. However, this discussion renewed my curiousity, and so I went to my source for information on Tunisian food: my son in law, who grew up there and whose family lives outside of Tunis. SIL is not a cook, however, and of course suggested I ask his mother. Unfortunately, while I adore his mother she speaks little or no English....so in the end my daughter wrangled a recipe from the next best source: her sister in law (her husband's sister).

                    Interestingly, daughter and SIL report that, at least in his family, they don't ordinarily eat lablaby for breakfast. In his family they commonly serve it as an appetizer to break the fast before the main (night time) meal during Ramadan...He isn't sure if it is a translation thing (something being served to 'break the fast' being viewed as 'breakfast' here?, or just an unususal tradition in his family.

                    In any event, daughter's sister in law sent her recipe, which I've copied below, along with my daughter's comments in parenthesis. Sounds fairly straightforward and easy; I plan to try it once the weather cools a bit. Daughter, who has had it at her MIL's in Tunis, says it is great! She likes hers with egg but not tuna. (and lots of harissa).

                    (So, the way my s-i-l told me is by making it with dry chickpeas, which require that you soak them in water the day before you make it. But I am guessing that you can just replace with canned chickpeas and skip that step if you like.)

                    "1. Soak the dry chickpeas overnight in water
                    2. Boil them in salt and water until they become soft with a cow's leg
                    (Daughter's comment: I am thinking to make it easier just boil the chickpeas in beef broth?)
                    3. Mix in harissa, salt, caraway seeds, and cumin (Daugher's comment: no measurements were given, so I guess just by taste lol)
                    (Easy peasy.)
                    To serve:
                    3. Place thick pieces of French Bread in the bottom of a bowl, and pour the soup on top.
                    4. Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil on top" (again no measurements)
                    5. Then, if you'd like you can put on tuna, chopped italian flat-leaf parsley, olives, or a boiled egg "(It is just different toppings people add-- -- depending on what they prefer)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: susancinsf

                      maybe it should read "soft like a cow's leg," indicating the doneness of the chickpeas. i doubt tunisians would be using beef broth. i double doubt it would be in a dish with tuna and egg.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Why wouldn't Tunisians use beef broth? Beef is certainly used in Tunisian cooking. It is one of the popular fillings for brik, and in any case it sounds good with the egg. Granted, not as sure about the tuna (to my taste) but then again, the tuna is optional.

                        Certainly chicken broth would work.

                        Will ask Daughter to ask sister in law next time she gets a chance, but I suspect that she meant just what she said. more or less. Perhaps a veal shank would be a logical choice for those who wanted a meatier flavor? (and might have been what she really meant by cow's leg).

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          by the way, at least one other description I have seen for lablaby mentioned that it was 'garlicky'. Sounds like a good addition to me! :-)

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            i have only ever had lamb brik, so i'm not sure, but tunisians eat very little red meat.

                            and agree about the garlic. :)