Category: Antipasto, Meze, Tapas, and Hors d'Oeuvres
Difficulty: Medium Difficulty
In colloquial Tunisian Arabic, a brīk (pronounced BREEK) is a deep-fried savory pastry popular as a kind of street food. In Algeria they are called būrak and in Morocco brīwat, all these words coming from the Ottoman Turkish börek. The Turkish cookbook writer Ayla Esen Algar mentions one account that attributes the invention of the börek to Bugra Khan (died 994), a ruler of eastern Turkistan, from where it gradually spread westward to Khorasan and finally to the Mediterranean. She says that the börek appeared in Turkey before the Turks. The Turkish börek was readily accepted in Tunisian cuisine, although not all Turkish foods were, for example, there is very little pilaf cookery in Tunisia.
The authentic brīk dough, called malsūqa in Tunisia, is a very thin phyllo pastry-like sheet made from very fine semolina flour. In Algeria this thin dough is called diyūl, and warqa in Morocco, meaning "leaf," where it is made with sifted white flour. You can order this thin pastry at Amazon.Com.
Paula Wolfert discovered long ago that the large Chinese wonton and egg roll wrappers work perfectly for making brīk. You can also use commercial sheets of phyllo pastry, but the egg roll wrappers work impressively well. There are several ways to fold the dough if it is circular. Fold two sides in, slightly overlapping so you have a rectangle with convex edges. Fold the convex edges over, slightly overlapping to make a square. Place the stuffing in the middle and fold one edge over to make a triangle. Or you can roll the brīk up like a cigar. They are then fried in pure olive or vegetable oil until golden.
Typically a Tunisian brīk will be crispy brown on the outside with the egg yolk and white being runny. The Tunisians love it this way, but if you are not wild about the idea of runny eggs, use only the yolk from a small egg or use a soft-boiled egg.
All brīk are stuffed with an egg, but this brīk, called egg brīk, is one of the simpler preparations. In the old Barbary corsair hangout of La Goletta on the Gulf of Tunis, brīk halq al-wād is the same except for the addition of a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves.
Tunisians are particular about how they eat a brīk. A real expert will start right in the middle where the runny egg is, the secret being not to allow any of the egg to fall. Others like to work from the outside in, leaving the egg to last. In any case, brīk are meant to be eaten with the fingers.[photo: Duane Winfield, in Clifford A. Wright, Little Foods of the Mediterranean]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
6 to 8 cups olive or vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion, peeled and grated
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 Chinese egg roll wrappers (6 to 8 inches square)8 small eggs
1. In a deep-fryer or an 8-inch saucepan with a wire fry basket, preheat the frying oil to 360 degrees F.
2. Mix the onion and parsley together in a fine mesh strainer and plunge into boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain well, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Place an egg roll wrapper on a plate in front of you. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the onion mixture in the center. Form a small well and break an egg into the center. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the yolk and fold one corner over to the other, forming a triangle. Seal the edges by rubbing with egg white or water. (Make them one at a time.) Pick the brīk up with two hands by the corners, place in the hot oil, and cook until golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don't worry if the edges aren't completely sealed, or if some of the egg white has run off, because the hot oil will quickly puff them together and all will be fine.4. Remove from the oil with a strainer or the fitted basket insert and drain on paper towels for a minute, then serve without utensils, mopping up the egg with the fried piece of egg roll wrapper. Continue making and cooking the remaining brīk.
Notice that the recipe calls for small eggs; use
the smallest eggs available to you.