Asida is an Arab dish made up of a cooked wheat flour lump of dough, sometimes with added butter or honey. Similar to gruel or porridge, it is eaten in many Arab and North African countries. It is particularly popular in Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. It is usually eaten by hand, without the use of utensils. Often served during religious holidays such as Mawlid and Eid, it also served during traditional ceremonies accompanying the birth of child, such as the ‘aqīqah, the cutting of the hair of a newborn seven days after birth.
A simple yet rich dish, which is often had without other complementary dishes, it is traditionally served as a breakfast dish and is also fed to women in labour.
History of Asida
One of the earliest documented recipes for Asida is found in an anonymously authored Hispano-Muslim cookbook dating to the 13th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, in the mountainous region of the Rif along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, a flour made from lightly grilled barley was used in place of wheat flour. A recipe for Asida that adds Argan seed oil was documented by Leo Africanus (c. 1465-1550), the Arab explorer known as Hasan al-Wazan in the Arab world.
- 25 g butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 300 g flour
- 1 litre boiling water
- honey or date syrup
- melted butter or ghee
- Fill a deep pot with ½ litre hot water. Add 25g butter and a teaspoon of salt.
- Leave on medium heat until the water starts to boil.
- Sift the flour then pour it into the pan all at once then remove from heat.
- Immediately start to stir the flour into the buttery water.
- Press the dough against the side of the pot to remove lumps.
- Once the dough is smooth, with the help of the wooden spoon, form it into one lump.
- Put the pot back on the heat and add another half litre of boiling water.
- Use the wooden spoon to form some hollows in the dough. Do not cover and leave to cook on low heat until the water is absorbed. Midway during this process, turn the lump upside down. The dough's cooking takes about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Immediately begin kneading, using a wooden spoon to smooth the asida. If you have a machine that will knead bread dough then it will handle asida fine.
- Melt about 75 g of butter or ghee.
- Brush a wide flat plate with butter.
- Place the asida in the centre and begin folding in the edges to form a smooth dome.
- Once the edges are folded in, roll the asida to even out any cracks.
- Turn upside down and use a buttered ladle to form a hollow in the asida.
- Pour the melted butter or ghee around the asida.
- Pour honey or date syrup in the hollow. Serve immediately.
A Sudanese variation on this dish is served with a savoury, tomato-based sauce. Okra in the sauce gives it a somewhat slimy consistency, and the dish is eaten regularly, not only on special occasions.