Hanukkah is rolling in early this year with its star deep-fried items: latkes and sufganiyot. And while there’s no doubt shredded potato patties and sweet jelly doughnuts are delicious, it’s time to throw a newcomer into the mix. Imagine a savory, elongated doughnut stuffed with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, fresh salad, preserved lemons, and chershi, a spread that ties nicely into Thanksgiving traditions — it’s made of pumpkin and harissa.
This is the fricassee, a Tunisian sandwich that’s highly popular in Israel, where the one of largest communities of the Tunisian-Jewish diaspora resides. Not related to the eponymous French dish of creamy chicken stew, the sandwich is a flavor bomb that fits right into Hanukkah’s celebration of all things fried in oil. And, as caterer and chef Aliza Grayevsky Somekh recently decided, it just has to be enjoyed by the Bay Area this holiday season.
On November 29, Grayevsky Somkeh, the woman behind Bishulim SF, is hosting a one-day-only fricassee pop-up at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland. “When I was still living in Israel and tasted the fricassee sandwich for the first time, in Jerusalem, I just couldn’t believe that bite,” she says. “This savory sufganiya sandwich is stuffed with items that contradict one another, and it’s an explosion of flavors.” Grayevsky, who is based in Oakland, says that while most of her work is centered on food events and catering, her recent pop-ups are inspired by fan requests and the desire to tell a story. The fricassee is about both of those things. “There’s no Tunisian food here, it’s an immigrant cuisine and I’m not aware of a Tunisian community in the Bay,” she says.
Indeed, there’s been a fricassee void. La Marsa, the only self-identifying Tunisian restaurant in San Francisco, temporarily closed during the pandemic, with no news of reopening. On its menu, a tuna and harissa sandwich was offered but not named fricassee. On Facebook, the group Tunisian Community in San Francisco counts under 900 members — and an inquiry about the availability of the sandwich in the Bay Area yielded no results. “I don’t know anyone that sells it in the Bay,” says Chakib Ayadi, a Tunisian activist and autonomous vehicle specialist who runs the page. “We follow YouTube and make it at home sometimes.”
For the pop-up, Grayevsky is planning on frying the buns on the spot — “that’s the best way to eat them,” she says — and stuffing them with all the ingredients, like a pocket. The best news? The sandwiches are available for pre-ordering only, to be received on the spot. They won’t run out, as Grayevsky and her team will be tailoring supply to demand. “We did a trial run at home and both my husband and I went crazy for it,” she says. Alongside the food, expect holiday songs and a menorah lighting ceremony.
Ayadi, although excited about the possibility of sampling fresh fricassee sandwiches, expressed concerns about their healthiness, due to the deep-frying process. But if you try anything oily and crispy this Hanukkah, let it be the fricassee. “It’s a dish for adventurous people who want to try a new experience through food. It’s a hug in the form of a sandwich,” Grayevsky says. Sold.
The fricassee sandwich, $11, is available for pre-order here. The pop-up is happening on November 29 at 5:30 pm at Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland.