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To me a big part of the fun of cooking meals traditional elsewhere is to do it "right". So I'd like to try to approximate using a couscousier as I play with my new North African ingredients. Almost all of the couscous I've been able to find (even on Amazon) is either labeled "quick cooking", or there are instructions on the box that say basically to add water, bring it to a boil, cover and let it sit for five minutes. I've found some couscous that doesn't offer any instructions, leaving it a mystery, but nothing that clearly says, "This is the real stuff, it takes time to cook." There is even couscous in the bulk aisle of my local grocery that has no instructions. I thought, "AHA! This must be the stuff". I called the company to be sure, but alas, same quick-cooking stuff.

I look at this recipe though Traditional North African Couscous and it seems pretty clear that this recipe does not refer to a product that can be made adequate by treating it like Stove-Top Stuffing. What gives? Is there such a thing as non-quick cooking couscous? If so, can you tell me how to get a hold of some?

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2 Answers 2

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Wikipedia implies that there is a difference between fast cooking cous-cous sold in western markets and the traditional product:

The couscous that is sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried, the package directions usually instruct to add 1.5 measures of boiling water or stock and butter to each measure of couscous and to cover tightly for 5 minutes. The couscous swells and within a few minutes it is ready to fluff with a fork and serve. Pre-steamed couscous takes less time to prepare than regular couscous, most dried pasta, or dried grains (such as rice).

According to Fine Cooking, you can get moister and more fluffy result with the traditional steaming method, even with quick cooking cous cous.

If you want the traditional product, you could go back to basics and make your own, as described by this NY Times article and video.

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Oh sure, I'll get right on that after I finish milking the Yak so I can make butter. –  Jolenealaska Dec 7 '13 at 23:06
    
The Fine Cooking article is very helpful. –  Jolenealaska Dec 7 '13 at 23:51
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Also, if you aren't going to do any of the more complicated, traditional moves: at least combine your boiling water and couscous in a wide, shallow dish and cover with plastic wrap, the fluff after the water is absorbed. Doing it in a shallow layer allows it to come out lighter because their isn't as much stacked up weight to compress the grains. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Dec 8 '13 at 17:43
    
Couscous is synonymous with dry, sandy crumbs in my family. Very interested to try out a more traditional technique. I find instant box preparations to be pretty useless. –  Preston Fitzgerald Jun 3 at 11:21

I bought a bag of couscous from a middle-eastern market in Dallas and it is the non-instant type. I have no idea how to cook it but I made an Indian sweet with it, eyeballing the amount of liquid as I cooked (it took almost 2 cups of liquid for a cup of couscous). It is tedious and I am still looking for the appropriate amount of liquid to couscous ratio but I just wanted to know that yes, there is a non-instant type of couscous. It is tedious only to the extent of finding out the right amount of liquid to use but it cooks quite easily. May be not as quickly as the instant variety but I found it to be more delicious than the quick-cooking type.

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