Bazaar Memories – Shakshuka and its International Heritage

Foodie Friday

Jun 10, 2011 by

Five years ago I went with two friends on a fabulous trip to Israel and Turkey. We have a long entwined history and consider ourselves ‘family’ since I introduced them and eventually officiated at their wedding. We have an abiding love for each other, for adventure, and a matching obsession for all things food-related.

In Istanbul we did the standard sightseeing, often book-ended by visits to the Grand Bazaar. We wandered around, always getting lost, entranced by the colors of the shawls, the intricate patterned pottery, the rug merchants extolling their carpets’ charms and price.

One lunch time, when hunger overcame us, we discovered a small food stand with tables in front and wound up ordering, and practically inhaling, the best egg dish we had ever had. It had a spicy, deeply flavored tomato base with eggs cooked on top and the whole thing was served in the hot skillet hunks of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

We returned several times, relishing it each time. We never discovered the name but often talked about it, our mouths watering each time.

Last year one of the food blogs I read had a version of what I realized we had eaten in Istanbul.  It’s called Shakshuka. An internet search reveals it as a popular Israeli dish, perhaps originating in North Africa. Our Turkish cook certainly made it his own. And there’s a well-known Italian relative called Eggs in Purgatory.

The approach is the same in all of them and it is one of those dishes that you will have to fiddle with to match your own level of satisfaction in terms of how much garlic, diced peppers and hot sauce you use.  The basic recipe is below and the directions simple. Everybody agrees that the longer the sauce cooks, the better it is, and that if you make extra sauce you will definitely find things to use it for.

Shakshuka – Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 4


2 tablespoons of oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed then chopped finely
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, undrained (crush them first by hand or spoon) or 4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped

½ cup water
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika
1-3 diced green peppers – anaheims, or jalapenos (depending on how hot you like things or 2 table spooons  Harissa paste)

Hot sauce (optional – I am addicted to Frank’s but use your own favorite)
4 eggs

Optional- ¼ cup feta

Chopped Italian parsley


Heat oil in a 12-inch deep skillet.

Add chiles and onions and cook until soft and golden brown.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika and hot sauce, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 15 minutes or longer..

Season sauce with salt and check for flavor. You might want to add more cumin or hot sauce. The sauce can be made ahead and improves with age.*

Crack eggs into bowl and gently slide them into simmering sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface.

Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes.

Baste the whites of the eggs with the tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk.

Optional: Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with crusty bread or warm pita, for sopping up the sauce.

*You can add sausage or salami, olives or other ingredients of your own choosing to the sauce as well. One recipe I saw added chopped cooked eggplant to mixture, as well as some za’atar – a wonderful Israeli spice,  and used goat cheese on top of the eggs.

Graphic credit: Smithsonian Food

About the Author

Rebecca Crichton Has Written 40 Articles For Us!

I try to stay aware of one main concept: We see things through different lenses. We get caught in our own belief systems and most of us are pretty attached to being right. I am one of those inveterate Life Long Learners. I like new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges.
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1 Comment

  1. This sounds absolutely DIVINE! I’m going to have to try it! Thanks, Rebecca for the cultural mini-tour and the great recipe!

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