Tunisians will celebrate Maouled, or the birth of the prophet Mohammed, tomorrow, January 24. The celebration comes every year on the 12th of Rabi’ Al-Awaal in the Hijri calendar. On this day, the traditional Tunisian dish of Asida Zgougou is shared widely among family members and neighbors.
Asida Zgougou is a pudding-like dessert that is chocolaty in color, usually served during Maouled, which is a colloquial term to designate the birthday celebrations of the prophet Mohamed.
The pudding is derived from pine nuts of the Aleppo pine tree, which is called “Zgougou” in the Tunisian dialect. It is served in bowls, covered with cream, and topped with almonds and small candies.
If you are interested in cooking Asida Zgougou, this is the recipe.
1kg of unmashed pine nuts from Aleppo (Zgougou)
500 grams of sugar 2 liters of water
500 grams of sifted flour
Different dried fruits, nuts, or candy for garnish
* Sort pine nuts carefully to remove all the stones, herbs, and dirt. One needs patience and a good pair of eyes for this.
* Place the pine nuts in a large container and wash with water carefully to rid them of any more dirt
* Grind the pine nuts in the blender
* Mix the ground pine nuts with water in another container
* Pour the ground pine nuts mixed with water into a sieve placed over another empty container
* Press hard on the paste that forms on top of the sieve to release the maximum amount of black juice from the ground pine nuts into the container below, leaving behind a dry paste that you can discard
* Mix the sifted flour with the black juice of the pine nuts
* Place the container with the mixture on the stove and turn the burner on at low heat while continuing to mix well to prevent the formation of lumps
* Keep mixing constantly and the Asida will thicken gradually
* As soon as you see your Asida thickening, add sugar while continuing to stir the mixture so that it maintains consistency
* As soon as it becomes thick, pour the mixture into small bowls
* Top the Asida with garnish, such as almonds and small candies.
This year, the observance of Maouled has sparked debate in Tunisia between some religious scholars who approve the celebration and others who forbid it.
Some posit that the celebration is an improper cultural innovation that came after the prophet’s death and is not based on any holy texts. Bechir Ben Hssan, a Tunisian scholar in Islamic law, advised Tunisians in his official facebook page not to celebrate Maouled.
On the other hand, Othman Battikh, the Mufti of Tunisia, stated on Monday that there is no obvious text in the Quran prohibiting the celebration of Maouled.