Slata Tounsia, which translates to ‘Tunisian salad’ in Tunisian vernacular is, as the name suggests, a very iconic and popular salad in modern day Tunisia. It’s a poor man’s dish and was historically made with the ingredients available at the given moment in time. It is therefore not a fixed salad and the ingredients are often interchanged based on who is making it and where. Tunisian salad has nothing to do with the Palestinian ‘Arab salad’ (incorrectly branded as ‘Israeli salad’ across the internet), which has a similar vegetable composition to this version with the finely chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers.
Slata Tounsia is linked to the Palermo salad as well as the Niçoise salad in the combination of ingredients they share: eggs, capers, olives, and tuna. According to Rafram Chaddad (Instagram: @rafram_x), a visual artist, writer, and storyteller based in Tunis, Niçoise salad may be a product of Tunisian migration and influence in Nice, although this is only a theory and it is not exactly known who influenced who and when.
Our mother’s Slata Tounsia composition isn’t fixed either and changes with what is available at home. Carrots, peppers, turnips, and sometimes beets find their way into this salad, but not today. Potatoes, preserved lemons, and harissa are also extremely common ingredients in Tunisian salad, however my mother never included them in hers, therefore they are absent in this recipe.
She also never followed a fixed recipe and would instead tell you ‘ainek mizenik’ which translates to ‘your eyes are your scale’. This is common in Tunisia where family recipes are not written down but instead preserved and transmitted orally but also, as mentioned before, where most dishes are prepared with what is available at the moment. That is why I will not include any measurements for the listed ingredients below, it’s up to you to make your own Tunisian salad with the ingredients you have in your kitchen…ainek mizenik.
Cucumbers, finely chopped
Tomatoes, finely chopped
Red onions, finely chopped
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Dried mint, crushed
For garnishing at the end:
Olive oil canned tuna
Hard boiled egg, sliced into four pieces
Pickled small red chili pepper
Step 1. In a small container with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice, add the salt and black pepper and mix well. You particularly want the salt to dissolve into the mix so that it ends up dissolving evenly into the salad. Set aside.
Step 2. In the meantime, add the finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions as well as the olive oil/red wine vinegar/lemon juice mix and toss together thoroughly.
Step 3. Add the crushed dried mint and toss thoroughly once more. Set aside and allow the salad to rest for at least 15 minutes so that all the flavors can infuse properly in the salad.
Step 4. Toss once more and garnish with the hard boiled egg slices, capers, tuna, olives, and a pinch of more black pepper.