A dish to celebrate with

March 24, 2021 11:41 am | Updated 11:41 am IST

Made from coarse grains of Durum wheat flour

Made from coarse grains of Durum wheat flour

A recent addition to the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage is Couscous, a dish staple to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. The word comes from the language of the Berbers, an ethnic group native to North and West Africa.

This processed grain product made from coarse grains of Durum wheat flour has been included as an Intangible Heritage because the traditions and practices of its preparation are unique.

The practice of making couscous begins with the growing of the grain. The harvested cereal is then ground to the consistency of semolina, hand rolled and steamed.

After shaping it, cornstarch or wheat flour is added and the couscous is dried. Preparing the dish involves the use of specific tools and utensils. Clay utensils are made by potters and wooden ones by artisans whose workshops are family run.

Traditional tagine lamb meat, couscous and fresh salad.

Traditional tagine lamb meat, couscous and fresh salad.

Couscous is prepared for ceremonial events, local or religious festivals and for family get-togethers. There are local variations on the art of preparation and recipe is kept within in the family. Depending on the region, season and the occasion, the couscous is accompanied by meats and vegetables.

Another variety of the couscous is the mesfouf, which is prepared from finely rolled semolina and butter.

Fun Facts

An anonymous 13th century North African cookbook, The Cookbook of Maghreb and Al Andalus , refers to the dish with a recipe that was “known all over the world.

Couscous is derived from the Berber seksu/kesksu, meaning “well rolled”, “well formed”, or “rounded.

The world’s first manufacturing plant to produce couscous was established in Algeria in 1907.

It makes an excellent vegetarian meal and also is an ideal stuffing for peppers, aubergines, and more.

There are three main types of couscous: Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese. The first comprises tiny grains of semolina and cooks very quickly. Israeli couscous is the size of peppercorns. The Lebanese variety is the size of small peas.

One cup of cooked couscous contains 200 calories (12% from protein, 87% from starch, and 1% from fats). It provides 35% of the recommended daily requirement of nutritious fibres and a range of B vitamins and minerals needed for its efficient absorption into the body.

It symbolises luck, blessings and abundance according to North African tradition.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.