Tunisian Sweet Potato Briks

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

These wonderful pastries might be reminiscent of knishes, but they are literally worlds apart.

Briks are the iconic streetfood of Tunisia. Street vendors sell these savory fried turnovers of dough filled with meat, fish, or vegetable stuffing all over Tunisia. Their popularity is similar to the sale of hot dogs in our country or falafel in Israel. Normally, briks are served with harissa, but here I have used some of the spicy relish to enhance the flavor of the sweet potato filling.

In the sixteenth century, sweet potatoes were brought by the Portuguese from the New World to Africa, where they have been continuously cultivated to this day. This recipe is a sweet potato adaptation of a brik recipe from Pamela Grau Twena’s book The Sephardic Table.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 medium sweet potato, about 8 ounces after cooking and peeling, preferably with pale flesh if available, or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 teaspoons harissa, or more to taste
1 egg, separated
Salt to taste
12–15 regular-sized (8-inch square) lumpia shells or thin spring roll skins
1 or more cups of vegetable oil for frying briks
  1. Heat an 8-inch skillet over high heat for 20 seconds. Add olive oil and heat for 10 seconds more. Reduce the heat if the oil is smoking, and add the onion.
  2. Sauté the onion until golden. Add the garlic and sauté another minute until the mixture is fragrant; do not let the garlic get too dark.
  3. Remove the skillet with the onion mixture from the heat, and add the parsley and potato. Mash the potato well to mix all of the ingredients together. Add the harissa, egg yolk, and salt to taste, and stir to combine.
  4. Combine the remaining egg white with 1 teaspoon of water.
  5. Lay one lumpia shell or spring roll skin on a board or countertop. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture in the center. Using your finger, rub some egg white on the bottom and top edges of the shell or skin.
  6. Fold the bottom edge over the filling, and lightly press down along the long edge. Do the same with the top edge, bringing it down to the long edge, creating a rectangle.
  7. Rub some egg white on the left and right edges of the formed rectangle. Fold the right edge over the filled section and gently press down to seal the edge. Repeat with the left edge, creating a packet that looks almost square. Place seam side down on a plate while you form the other packets.
  8. Pour the oil into a flat-bottomed wok or a small saucepan so that the oil is 1 inch deep.
  9. Heat the oil to 350°F on a frying thermometer until hot but not smoking.
  10. Place the packets, 2 or 3 at a time, into the hot oil, seam side down. Fry until lightly golden and the tops begin to puff up a little. Turn the briks over and fry just until lightly browned. Immediately remove from the oil with a wire spatula or slotted spoon. Drain on crumpled paper towels and serve. Additional harissa may be used for a dip, if desired.
Additional Notes
  • Burnt garlic will impart a bitter taste to food. Always add the garlic after the onions are golden to add flavor and prevent burning.
  • Egg white cooks immediately when exposed to high heat. It is a perfect sealant for that reason and will not splatter in the hot oil the way pure water would.
  • Crumpling paper towels provides a larger surface area to absorb oil from fried foods and makes the food less greasy.
  • Although briks are meant to be eaten right after cooking, these are good warm or at room temperature. Reheat in a 425°F oven until crisp if you want to serve them hot.