An Interview With Mina Harissa

Most people who love North African food are well aware of the flavor profile of harissa, that somewhat spicy {or hot} red chili pepper paste used as a condiment or dip in many Moroccan and Tunisian dishes. Those who are new to it are often really surprised about how much they love it since it’s actually quite versatile. I find myself adding it to foods like our homemade quesadillas, mac’n cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches- talk about fusion food…

Jar of Mina Harissa {mild}

If you’ve visited this site before, you know what a fan I am of Mina Harissa, a product of New York-based Casablanca Foods. They make an excellent quality harissa in a variety of spice levels {mild, medium, spicy} that are available online and now in Crate & Barrel Stores.

I recently had a chance to ask a few questions of Mina, the curator of these lovely, delicious and healthy jars of harissa. She’s the matriarch of this family-owned business and the one who came to the United States from Morocco, bringing her love of cooking, Moroccan food and serving others with her talent and passion for the flavors she began mastering in childhood.

Here’s my interview with Mina…

MHK:   When did you start cooking?  When did cooking become your profession? Can you tell us more about how that started and evolved?

MINA:  As far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed cooking. Growing up I would always be beside my mother in the kitchen helping her prep all the ingredients for lunch. While my brothers and sister played outside, I was watching my mother cook and taking notes mentally. The aroma that filled the house always pulled me to the kitchen, seeing the end product was always exciting and delicious! As I grew into a teenager, I took over cooking for the household.

Cooking became my profession soon after I moved to the States. People seemed to love Moroccan food and I was fortunate enough to start a business doing what I loved most.

Tagine Giveaway from Mina Harissa on MyHalalKitchen.com

Tagine giveaway from Mina Harissa

MHK:   What do you love most about Moroccan cooking techniques and the food? Is it your favorite out of all other cuisines and why or why not?

MINA: I love that Moroccan food is fresh, healthy and diverse. I use a wide variety of produce, meats and spices…it never gets boring. I enjoy all types of food but Moroccan food takes the prize. I grew up on it!

MHK:   Your family started the Mina harissa brand of products with your recipes- tell us how the idea started to bottle your recipe. How many times did you make the harissa before you thought it was ready to put into jars and begin selling the product?

Mina Harissa Logo

Mina’s logo is cleverly created to represent the variety of healthy, traditional ingredients in each jar  of harissa.





MINA:  It’s been my dream to have my own company and brand. The timing was right. I had just retired but needed to keep busy.

I have my own Harissa recipe that I would make frequently for family and friends. They all loved it!  This encouraged me to want to bring it to the market. The key was finding the right food manufacturer that could make my recipe on a commercial scale. It took a few tries, but we eventually got it.

MHK:  What type of cooking do you do now?

MINA: The only cooking I do now is for my family. Making my kids favorite Moroccan dishes, only now, I make it for my grandkids also.

MHK: What is your hope for the Mina harissa brand in the future?

MINA: I hope to see the brand grow into a successful line of traditional Moroccan products and also make Moroccan food widely accepted in the States. Excited for the journey ahead!

Mina Jars of all Spice Levels

Win a Beautiful Moroccan Tagine and a Jar of Mina Harissa!

To enter, please read our  Official Giveaway Guidelines page first then add a relevant comment about this interview in order to be officially entered into the giveaway.  Entering indicates you have read the guidelines. Giveaway ends at 12:01 am on August 12, 2012.

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  1. I’m so glad to hear that you plan to add more Moroccan products to your line. Please keep us updated on the new releases and where we can buy them. Of course, I’d love to win the tajine too 🙂

  2. Assalaam alaikum,
    I enjoy reading your blog so much! It’s beautiful and entertaining. Also, I love harissa, and Mina’s different varieties are so delicious! I, too, cook for grandchildren now, and would love to win a tagine. It would definitely come in handy.
    Ramadan Mubarak,
    Rihana Caparoso

  3. Salaam Waleikum,

    Congrats on your new line of harissa! I can see using this sauce in a variety of foods, including American foods, to give them an extra kick! Best of luck in your endeavor, and please keep me in mind for the tagine giveaway!


  4. congrats on your success I will definetly be waiting to try some of your sauce moroccan food and pocketbooks are two things I love that are non american but truly do somethibg good for me. sweepstakes giveaway

  5. I just love food, and I especially love trying new food. I am new to this blog, but I’m slowly starting to learn the terminology related to foods not originating where I live. This prize would be a great way to get my foot in the door as far as trying more international cuisine.

  6. Loved the interview and I love harissa!!!!!!!!!! I also put it in and on EVERYTHING!!! If the harissa is a good one, it can really make the dish. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a brand in the US that I like, so we usually bring ours in big buckets from overseas and keep them frozen. I can’t wait to try Mina Harissa!!!! Hope it’s delicious!!

  7. We read about your harissa a few months ago and order it online. We love it. After trying the mild we will now order the medium and the spicy. Thanks for the fascinating interview and for making this delicious spice available.

  8. This absolutely a great way to introduce the US public to Moroccan cuisine. I myself am looking foward to trying harissa for the first time! Alhamdulillah that this world was created with such diversity that we are able to try new things daily!

  9. Finally Moroccan spice and flavor at my fingertips! I can’t wait to try everything you come out with!

  10. I would love to try that Harissa! I can’t find it in my area but I hear about it a lot on the Moroccan cooking blogs that I follow. I like how she has different types of spiciness, and I love the packaging!

  11. This is wonderful! I have never had any harissa before, and would love to try this delicious and wholesome sounding Mina Harissa! I very much look forward to the day when Moroccan food becomes a widely accepted favorite here in the U.S.! 🙂

  12. As salaamu alaikum,
    Congrats on the new line. I would to when and where they are available in the States. Converting to Islam has open my mind to a whole other world I would not have otherwised known and ,of course, with new cultures comes new food mashaAllah. May u have much success.

  13. This is a great interview. Thanks for introducing us to the availability of harissa. I am excited to order some. Also, a tagine has been on my “must try” list for a couple of years now.

  14. As Salaamu Alaikum,
    This was a really interesting post as I have not used Harissa before and would be interested in more ways I could use it in “fusion” dishes.

  15. i love cooking Tagine, thoguth at times its hard to get everythign i need to make the spice blends i use, i want to try the Harissa personally as the only one i was given by my dad was a powdered mix which tasted kinda flat to me.

    i bet their would go great with beef or lamb ^_^

  16. Recently I have head so much about Tagine cooking, would love to try Indian dishes in the moroccan flavor of Harissa:) if I win this giveaway!

  17. Salaam Mina
    So happy to try the harissa from Crate and Barrel. I do agree Morrocan food is very healthy and those spices are so addicting. I had lost babies and my doctor said your husband is from Morocco they have a dish called coucous eat that with all those vegitables to get healthy. The baby made it full term and is sooooo healthy and strong I named him Yoseph and I always say its from that amazing Morrocan food. Alhumdullah. I would love to try a real tagine. Inshallah

  18. We love a good harissa in our home! Congrats on your harissa line – sounds lovely. Moroccan food is a joy to cook and eat.

  19. Will be looking into ordering some. Really like the fact that the ingredients are simple and natural; also love the logo concept/design.

  20. I love morrocan dishes, the spices that are used add such lovely aromas and tastes to the cuisine that sets it apart from most other middle eastern food. Glad to hear the success story for mina, I love a good chilli sauce so I’ll def look into buying some soon.

  21. I just love Moroccan food and being that It is very hard to afford to eat out at the morrocan restaurants in my local area, I really need to learn how to cook morrocaan food. Having all the right spices and the cookware is such a important part to getting an authentic taste. I would love to win this giveaway so bad!

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