The ultimate food adventure in Morocco
When you come to Morocco, you have to be aware that food makes about 50% of the culture in this Northern African country. The streets are busy and full of the sound of people going about their days but never forgetting to grab a bite or shop for the fresh goods on every corner of the colorful, local markets.
These goods are mixed artistically to produce the most delicious foods you can even taste. On one hand, the stalls are always packed with lines of people waiting or their fresh meals to be ready. On the other hand, restaurants offer the most delicious and traditional Moroccan cuisine dishes. An array of choices that will allow you to try a new dish every day you spend in Morocco and its vibrant and wonderful cities.
From Tajins to Couscous, you will be able to taste fresh vegetable, meat, chicken and fish mixed with aromatic herbs and spices that will make your mouth drool before you even taste. Each city has its own special dish that will leave its mark on you and will have you craving it the next day.
By Chakib Bahbaz
Do you sometimes plan holidays around what you want to eat? So you are like me: a foodie! Moroccan cooking is a delectable combination of culinary influences from the Arabs and Berbers, French and Spanish. Morocco is THE destination for the foodies!
a Casablanca based traveler
FOOD TOURISM IN MOROCCO
Before we dive into the choices Morocco offers you in terms of food, you have to be aware of how enjoyable food tourism can be if you know where to go and what to eat.
In the recent days, tourism expanded beyond natural attractions and cities. Now, the majority of tourists and even local travel to cities with the aim of tasting special dish. You have the Tanjia in Marrakech, Bissara in Fez, and fresh fish in Essarouira, all these dishes have managed to attract people from all over the world.
Aside from eating, people come to Morocco to learn Moroccan cuisine and spices. Moroccan food is now something that chefs in the United States, The United Kingdom and even Germany add to their menus. The flavor and combination of taste is a remarkable experience that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime.
Famous food Youtubers have Morocco as their first destination jotted down on the places to visit list. Some of them managed to even settle in Morocco for good, that can only tell of the grandeur of Moroccan cuisine and the variety of dishes it offers.
THE MAGNIFICENT FOODS OF MARRAKECH
If you have are planning a visit to Morocco, Marrakech is certainly on your list. This historic city was founded in the 11th century and since then it never failed to deliver good food to the population. In Jemaa El Fna, the colorful scene will grab your attention but the smoke rising from the stalls of smoked lamb will grab your heart.
Marrakech cooks have a very special technique of cooking lamb. After they are spiced and marinated, full lambs are entered into small underground ovens and left there for half a day slowly cooking and soaking the spices and hers. The result is flavorsome meat that melts into your mouth instantly. The professionals know how to conceal the smell of lamb that most people hate. The meat falls off the bone and can be eaten with a little of cumin and salt.
Perhaps it is the most loved dish of all Moroccans, and it will captivate you as well once you eat it. Tanjia is a specialty of Marrakech, visiting the city and no going for Tanjia is a disappointment. Good chunks of beef or lamb cooked with fermented butter, preserved lemon and a variety of spices. This dish is also cooked in underground ovens covered with ash and coals, it is completely healthy because the Tanjia jars are sealed firmly with a thread and kraft paper.
Tanjia require a long time to be ready. It takes up to five hours to prepare a single Tanjia just to make sure the meat soaks the spices completely. The best Tanjia joints in Marrakech are “Chez Lamine Hadj Mustapha” and “Ferkous Restaurant”. The masters of Tanjia that have been in this line of work for more than 25 years.
They may not be everyone’s cup of coffee but if you are brave enough to give them a try, you will certainly love them. Snail stalls are everywhere around Jemaa El Fna, they are actually a symbol of the atmosphere of the whole place.
The best part of about these snails is the broth in which they are cooked. This broth contains more than 15 types of herbs and have dozens of benefits for one’s health such as digestion, period cramps and flu.
Since you have tried snails, then sheep heads wouldn’t be bad right? Just next to the snail stalls, there are the lamb head stalls, and you are lucky if you find a place to sit because these stalls are often packed with people. The locals love eating the brains, tongue and head meat and consider it as a luxury. Don’t worry, you will be given sweet green tea to wash it down if you don’t like the flavor.
FEZ: THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF MOROCCO
After we are done in Marrakech, it is time to visit another city. Fez was founded in the 14th century, a gem beyond belief. The vibrant souks, the historical old city and medieval architecture will captivate your heart and make you fall in love at once.
Much can be said about Fez, but we will focus on the food because it is very easy to get carried away. The signature dish of Fez is simply, Fava beans soup, also referred to as Bissara by the locals. As night falls, hundreds of people head to the Blue Gate or Bab Boujloud to get a bowl of Bissara. The bowls are topped with fresh olive oil, cumin and ground pepper if you want. Bissara taste best when eaten with freshly baked, hot bread prepared in oven. You can drink a hot cup of green tea to wash it down.
Although it can be found in every Moroccan city, Msemen of Fez has a special place in the heart of the locals. It’s basically a Moroccan pancake made on the grill. There are two types of Msemen you can get in Fez, the normal ones or those filled with onions, tomatoes and olives.
Msemen is often consumed as a part of breakfast, but it can be eaten throughout the day. It is cheap but very delicious.
Bastila is also a national dish in Morocco often served in big occasions such as weddings and family parties. The Fez version of Bastila is the most exquisite of all. Normal bastila can be big enough to feed up to 10 people, but small ones are available for grab at the food shops and restaurants of Fez. In concept, Bastilla is similar to pigeon pie but way harder to make. It takes skills and experience to properly fold the content in thin paper-thin laves, but the cooks of Fez mastered the art at a young age. If you visit Fez, make sure to try Bastila before you leave. You can distinguish it by the sugar icing and ground almond sprayed on top.
CASABLANCA: NOT THE MOVIE!
The capital city of Casablanca is home to every imaginable type of Moroccan cuisine. If you want to try any type of food, you can visit Rick’s Café but the lore behind the café and its association with the movie will prevent you from enjoy the food, so you are going to dive deeper into the city.
Just near the Rick’s Café, there is the Casablanca port, which offers dish made of the freshest seafood. Shrimp Mqila is the bestseller there and if you go deep enough, the line of people waiting to enjoy their egg and shrimp dish will amaze you. The shrimps come directly from the sea to you pan. The conditions where you eat may not be perfect, but it is still delicious.
We realize we said we are going to stray from the known tourist path, but the dishes at La Saqala are not to be missed, especially their couscous that is only served on Fridays. The most authentic couscous is the one that contains 7 types of vegetables, however, you can also like couscous with caramelized onions, a dish you will never have enough of.
The couscous can be served with either lamb, beef or chicken, so you can make your own choice. The meat and vegetables are place atop a mount of soft couscous. The broth is then poured over the mix to give it an extraordinary flavor.
YOU CAN'T HATE ESSAOUIRA
Unless the cold gets the better of you, you will never feel unwelcomed in Essaouira. Although the weather can be unstable, the food choices definitely make up for everything.
You can’t visit Essaouira without eating sardines fresh out of the water. The whole city is a small port that offers all its visitors the freshest seafood they can get all over Morocco. The only difficulty here is that you have to wake up early, otherwise you will resort to restaurants which is not generally a bad thing.
In order to get the best sardines, visit the port and buy your fill of fish in the port. The closest thing to the fish bins are the grilling stalls. All you have to do is give them the fish, sit back, relax and wait for what could be the best grilled fish you will ever eat. Mixed with cilantro and cumin and grilled with onions and tomatoes, sardines of Essaouira are a dish made out of love.
Origin to France, crêpes have invaded every part of the world and Essaouira is no expectations. Along the old city, there are dozens of stalls that offer better crêpes than those in France. Dive deep into the city though, don’t let the stalls on the outskirts get the better of you.
There is more to Moroccan food than what we have listed here. We could go on and on writing about all the foods we have tried, but we will end up writing cooking books. If you visited Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and Essarouira, then turn your gaze south toward Dakhla and Layoune or north towards Tangier and Tetouan. Each city bring to the table a variety of food that are worth travelling all the way to Morocco for.