Advertisement Close

Take a Break for Breeks

posted on: Apr 2, 2024

By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer

Breeks are as popular in Tunisia as hamburgers are in North America. They are sold in street food stalls, restaurants and regularly prepared at home.  With a savory stuffing wrapped in a paper-thin filo-like dough known as malsouqa in Tunisia, diyoul in Algeria and warqa in Morocco, Tunisians have a specific method for eating them by taking a large bite in the middle of the savory deep-fried pastry enjoying the runny egg inside.   Whether stuffed with tuna, potatoes, lamb or beef, the must-ingredient is the egg that is broken into the filling.  

Breeks should be eaten immediately while hot.  Try a little hot sauce (in Tunisia they use hareesa) on them for an explosion of taste.

Malsouqa is the ideal dough for Tunisian breeks. It can be purchased in some grocery stores that specialise in Middle Eastern and North African ingredients.  However, for this recipe, we used filo dough as it is similar in texture to malsouqa and filo is easy to find in any supermarket.

No matter what dough you use, ‘take a break for breek’.  It will be satisfying!

Tunisian Meat and Egg Pies – Breeks

Makes 12 individual pies

1 large egg

4 tablespoons butter

1/2-pound lean ground beef or lamb 

1 medium onion, finely chopped 

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)

1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped 

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

24 sheets of filo dough

Oil for frying

1/4 cup butter, melted

12 small eggs

Beat the large egg in a small bowl then set aside.

Prepare filling by melting the 4 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, then sauté meat over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in onion, garlic, coriander leaves, hot pepper, salt, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper, then stir-fry for 10 minutes or until meat is cooked.  Remove from heat, then stir in cheese and set aside to cool.  Divide into 12 equal portions.

Place oil in frying pan to about 1/2-inch deep then heat over medium.

Take a sheet of filo dough, brush edges lightly with the melted butter then place another sheet of filo dough on top.  Fold twice then slightly fold the ends in on 2 sides to make a square.  Place 1 portion of the filling in the centre and make a well in the filling.  Lightly brush edges of square with beaten egg then break one egg into the well.  Fold 2 ends of the square to make a triangle then press the edges together to seal.  Carefully slide breek into hot oil and fry for about 30 seconds or until golden on one side.  Turn over gently using 2 spatulas and cook on other side until golden, about 30 seconds. Carefully lift breek from oil and place on paper towel to drain excess oil.  Let rest for a minute then transfer to serving platter.  Repeat the process until all the breeks are done.  

Serve immediately.