The art of making couscous from scratch is worth the time and the muscle.
In an era when we are embracing all things handmade, from fresh pasta to one-of-a-kind ceramics, it’s still fairly uncommon to see a restaurant hand-rolling its own couscous. That’s because the process of making it from scratch is labor-intensive, repetitive, and time-consuming. Cooks must roll the semolina flour over and over so that the tiny particles stick to one another, clumping up into tender granules without forming a dough. Chef Meir Adoni from Nur in New York City, one of a few restaurants making couscous this way, refers to the motion as a kind of rubbing, “as if you are warming your hands.” But the lighter texture and fresh taste of hand-rolled grains make it worth the effort.
Ron and Leetal Arazi, owners of the artisanal food company New York Shuk—which specializes in products inspired by Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish cuisines—are on a mission to show people the way artisanal couscous should taste by teaching them how to make it at home. In addition to selling spices and condiments, they offer couscous classes and a DIY couscous kit. The kit includes everything you need to make your own couscous at home, including a Laguiole couscoussièr steamer. (Order it online at nyshuk.com.)
The Arazis’ goal is to make from-scratch couscous more approachable by demonstrating how manageable—and rewarding—it is to make it by hand. As Ron says, “It’s the difference between buying bread that comes inside a bag at the supermarket and a freshly baked loaf.”
Learn how to make your own hand-rolled couscous here.
Where to Sample Hand-Rolled Couscous
Kish-Kash , New York City
Chef Einat Admony’s restaurant—named after the Hebrew word for a couscous sieve—focuses on Jewish North African cuisine with an emphasis on hand-rolled couscous, offered in dishes like chicken tagine and fish in a spicy tomato sauce.
Saba, New Orleans
At his Israeli restaurant, chef Alon Shaya serves hand-rolled couscous as a side dish, flavored with dried cherries and Persian lime butter. “We steam our couscous, rather than boiling it, to help keep it soft and light,” Shaya notes.
Nur, New York
Chef Meir Adoni, who learned how to hand-roll couscous from his Moroccan grandmother, serves it two ways: with lamb chops, pumpkin tershi, roasted carrots, and yogurt, and an off-menu vegetarian version with Broccolini, cabbage, and roasted potatoes.
Mourad, San Francisco
Mourad Lahlou has been serving hand-rolled couscous—served with fava bean puree, Swiss chard, sunflower seed, and mint—at his restaurant Mourad since 2015.