Tuesday 24 August 2010

Bseisa and Howira بسيسة و حويرة

Bseisa and Howira are two different mixtures of roasted barley and other cereals ground with fenugreek and aniseed and coriander . This kind of food is North African in origin, known in Tunis and Algeria as well as throughout Libya. Its history goes back a long way, and travellers and nomads used to take bsisa and dates a with them on their journeys since it was full of nutritional value, easy to carry in its ground form, and does not spoil.

Bsisa is bright yellow and Howira sandy brown. 
Howira can also be used as a liquid when added to water, creating a strongly-floured drink. The most common use for bsisa and howira  is to mix them with olive oil into a paste. This is then typically eaten with dates or figs for a quick meal which is energy-rich and healthy. They make delicious Ramadan dips!


  1. Nice presentation about Bseisa and Howira! However, it is important to emphasize that they are too different all together. Bseisa's majour component is (Helba), which gives it its characterized yellowish colour and can not be drunken! Howira and Rowina on the other hand contain no Helba at all. Howira is a kind of Zummita (زميتة وبالعربي الفصيح سويق) and made into porridge via mixing it with cold water and then add oil or as a paste as you mentioned. People eat Howira and Zummita in different ways and add to it different dressings and other food,olive oil, butter/margarine (زبدة أو سمن), honey, dates and even almonds. Some people use Zommita as a bread and east it with fresh green onions and even with tomatoes and chilles (سلطة عربية), which is a custom in the western parts of Libya, particularly among Libyan Amaziiegh. In the eastern part of Libya, particularly Benghazi, Howira is simply zommita with more cumins. In Benghazi, Bseisa is actually Howira mixed with date paste (تمر معجون). Rowina is almost as Howira but it is dissolved in water and drunken, usually with a lot of sugar and more added cumins than cereals. Bseisa in the middle part of Libya including Misurata, Zletin and Khoms, Bseisa is only fried date paste and served hot. Some serves it along with dry Zummita! However, the western Bsiesa, which is with Helba sa said above is not drinkable. I suggest you name this Bseisa as Bseisa Musratyea and the Yellow Bseisa as Bseisa Ejbalyea. I also suggest that you made separate recipes for Zummita, Howira, Rowina, Bseisa Ejbalyea, Bseisa Musratyea and Bseisa Benghazyea (Rowina with date paste). You may also show that in the west, Zummita is made mainly of Barley while in the East, it is made made mainly of only of Wheat instead. The Western Libyans use Wheat for Howira and Rowina. It is also good to emphasize that in Darna in particular, Zummita Howira, Rowina are all made with extra amounts of cumins compared to other parts of Libya. I also suggest that in the same chain of food, add Mathrouda and Asieda (Libyan Porridge), because both are made of cereals similar to the Libyan Sahrawi food (from Sahaara: desert) such as Zummita, Howira and Rowina and to Bsiesa! Yet, it is very essential how is Zummita, Rowina and to Bsiesa are prepared and that the grains need to be roasted on a medium fire until they are cooked then grounded, which made them ready to eat when mixed with water and oil unlike the normal flour which can not be eaten until baked! This explains probably why Zummita was used as a bread previously and still some use it so as said above!
    I think you are doing a magnificent work! Food is not only to eat but it gives a lot about the culture and habits. GOOD LUCK!

  2. Thanks for the feedback and information, I'll add these details to upcoming posts. And I'll definitely include the recipe for 3asida on the blog.

  3. Essalam Alaikum, I have never seen these here in Algeria, although I live in the Sahara all of my friends are from the North. I will have to find this here, they both look very appetizing!

    1. what are you doing in the sahara desert Jennifer? you should move up north of the country to get to know all the Algerians cooking recipes and north african foods, I'm here in the middle of Arizona desert and still use the north african cooking, people love it here. Good luck Jennifer from Hassen In Phoenix.

  4. Walaikum Asalam. They're great for Ramadan, and a quick healthy meal is always a good thing! Good luck in your search, let me know how it goes :)

  5. Essalam alikum this is sabjar from india i like the dishes but i want some more extra ordinary dishes receipes for me can u pls kept it,i hope so

  6. Hello! I had bsisa many times in Tunisia for breakfast, and though it was quite different in terms of texture from what you show here (not quite as wet, also a very dark brown), I was wondering if you can help me find what would be the best flour to use if I want to make it here in the U.S.?