Don’t let all the travel shows scare you. Eating in Morocco isn’t as frightening or strange as they make it out to be and I promise, lamb head is as crazy as it gets – and it’s actually pretty tasty!
For all you curious and hungry travellers out there thinking about travelling or visiting Morocco – here’s what you need to know on how to eat like a local in Morocco.
Spices! Moroccan food is all about using their huge array of locally-grown spices. The most popular are cinnamon, cumin, tumeric, ginger, pepper, paprika, coriander, parsley, and last but definitely not least, saffron – one of the most expensive items in the world and worth more in weight than gold.
Moroccan Pancakes or rghaif or msemen was my favourite breakfast and snack foods when in Marrakech. Different from harsha which are more like English muffins, Moroccan pancakes are fried fresh to order and served folded as a square. When fresh, they can be eaten plain but are also delicious with honey or butter.
Mint Tea in Morocco is similar to wine in France. In fact, Morocco is one of the world’s largest importers of tea. Whether it’s tea for breakfast, an afternoon tea break, or chatting with friends after dinner – tea plays a big part in Morocco. The most popular variety is mint tea that is often served with small cookies, pastries, sweets, dates and other dried fruits, or nuts.
Harira Soup is a thick and hearty soup and a great way to start your dinner when you’re dining in Morocco. Traditionally served during Ramadan, the tomato-based soup usually contains lentils and tomatoes. You’ll often find a honeyed pretzel-like dessert called chabakia being served at the soup stalls in Morocco – another traditional dish served at Ramadan.
Couscous with souvlaki is probably the most approachable Moroccan dish for travellers who are unadventurous eaters. This yellow grain dish is similar to rice or pilaf and is a popular staple in most northern African countries. In Morocco, it’s often served with meat, vegetable stew, and in the tourist food stalls, souvlaki skewers.
Moroccan Salads are a lot like antipasti to Italians, served before the bulk of the meal. Found in more traditional sit-down restaurants rather than food stalls, the salads are various dishes of hot and cold vegetables prepared differently. Carrot salads with paprika and cumin, spicy eggplant, potato salad, and etc.
Pastilla, also called bastilla or bsteeya, is a very popular dish and one of Morocco’s tastiest. A mixture of squab with spices and seasonings is put on a layer of warka dough (similary to phyllo) and wrapped up in a disc-shaped pie. Traditionally made with squab, you can almost any variety (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable, dessert) in Morocco today.
Tagine is another popular Moroccan dish, name after the tagine vessel used to make the dish. The tagine pot has a flat base with sides and a cone-shaped cover. Traditionally, inexpensive meats and vegetables would be cooked in the pot over a charcoal grill for hours. Today it’s usually made in a pressure cooker and served (for appearances’ sake) in a tagine at the table. The result is a delicious stew of meat and vegetables braised and tenderized in its own juices. Delicious!
Lamb Head is probably as adventurous as it gets when you’re eating in Morocco. It may come as a shock at first – the rows of upside-down lamb heads sitting on display at the stalls. Part brisket chunks, part tendon and bones, and part fish-like gelatinous bitd served with a round of bread, it’s a delicious delicacy that even I couldn’t help tasting – and liking.
Spice Cake with Tea is a pairing you’ll find at the dessert carts at the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech – but is not for the faint of heart. Although it looks like rich chocolate cake, the first bite will remind you that you’re in Morocco. This deeply-rich spice cake sticks to the roof of your mouth, attacking our palette with flavours of clove and nutmeg. Order an equally powerful tea to help you wash it down and you’ll quickly begin to enjoy the spice cake!
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