Moroccan Food: What to expect, what to order
Aug 11 , 2011
The influence impressed upon the Maghreb region by other cultures is so significant that you can taste them. Hints of the middle-east, Mediterranean, vegetarian Indian, and Arab dominate Moroccan food. Moroccan dishes range from spicy to tear-jerking spicy and please the most adventurous eaters.
Surrounding regions have left a major impression on the Moroccan culture, and this includes the food. Influences in the area include Mediterranean Europe, middle-eastern, Indian, and Arab. The primary difference between the original and the Moroccan version is the use of spice. Native spices of Morocco include cinnamon, saffron, pepper, ginger, paprika, anise, sesame, turmeric, and cumin. The use of spice is far more prolific in Moroccan food than its original counterparts.
Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal in Morocco, while breakfast and dinner are lighter meals. As Morocco is primarily Muslim, most people in Marrakech fast through Ramadan. The midday meal is comprised of different courses that include salads, entrees served in traditional Moroccan tagines (thick stoneware bowls), and then fresh fruit dessert.
The major grain in the North African region is couscous, which is semolina that has been rounded into small pellets. Couscous is used much like rice and pasta from other regions, as a base for signature meals.
Couscous is most often served smothered in meats and vegetables with sauces. If you are not an adventurous eater, most restaurants in the Marrakech region will serve you bland couscous, made in a simple broth. The grain is also a great starting base for spiced vegetables and is widely used in vegetarian dishes.
One popular Moroccan dessert is seffa, which is a base of steamed couscous with almonds, cinnamon, sugar, and sometimes buttermilk.
The most preferred Moroccan meat is lamb, though it is not widely used due to the higher cost. Beef is widely used in entrees. Moroccan food is also incorporating more fresh seafood and chicken in its dishes.
Due to the middle-eastern influences, vegetarian choices are common in Moroccan food. Hummus, chickpea salads, falafels, baba ganoush, pita breads, and couscous are common in Moroccan food.
Pigeon meat is used in pastilla, which is a meat pie that is wrapped in phyllo dough with a sweet layer consisting of almonds, sugar, and cinnamon, and a savory layer with stewed meat. In some cases, shredded chicken is used in the dish, though many food vendors will tell you it’s pigeon. Pastilla is a great Moroccan dish for adventurous eaters.
Tagines are thick, stoneware dishes that hold some of the main Moroccan food dishes, including stews, couscous with stewed meats, and vegetables in spicy sauces. The tagines allow for a slow braising of cheaper cuts of meats. Other meals made in tagines include egg dishes similar to frittatas.
Due to the slow-cooking nature and use of spices, most tagines are not recommended for the timid eater.
Harira is a soup made of chickpeas, onions, rice, lentils, tomato, eggs, olive oil, flour, and a small amount of beef, lamb, or chicken. The harira is spiced with parsley, celery, coriander, saffron, ginger, and pepper. Harira is served throughout Morocco and can be considered a meal or a meal course, depending on the serving size. Harira is common even amongst street vendors. Many varieties are tame enough for picky and timid eaters.
Now check out the best Marrakech restaurants to taste the best version of this food.