Eating Fresh Fish & Spicy Tagines
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
I love this quote by James Michener and it always makes me think about how meeting the local people and seeing the world the way they do is the best way to experience a place. When it comes to food I always try to sample as much of the local cuisine as I can while I’m travelling. Eating traditional food in local restaurants helps you to understand a culture and you can guarantee it will be cheaper and tastier than the tourist hotspots.
While I was in Morocco I got to try some amazing dishes, and here are some of my favourite meals:
Like most meals in Morocco, breakfast is served with baskets filled with warm, fresh bread. The traditional bread is flat and crusty and dunked into Moroccan oil or spread with jam. Fried semolina flatbreads are also a popular option. These are warm, doughy and delicious with apricot jam.
On cold mornings it isn’t uncommon to have Harira for breakfast. This is a traditional soup made from tomatoes and lentils and is warm and filling, a perfect start to the day. Harira is also served as a starter with evening meals, and the leftovers are warmed up the following morning for breakfast.
It’s all about the tagines
If you’re heading to Morocco and expecting some delicious tagines, you won’t be disappointed. A tagine is a ceramic dish with a chimney-shaped lid and they’re used to slow cook stews. The most popular ingredients in a tagine are potatoes, carrots and peas along with meat like goat, mutton and lamb shank. They’re cooked with spices such as paprika, turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper and cumin to create a tender and tasty dish. This is all served with cous cous, which is cooked from scratch and will undoubtedly be the best you’ve ever tasted.
The best tagine I had in Morocco was a Kefta Tagine with meatballs and egg on top.
Top tagine tip: You should be aware that most restaurants will tone down the tagines for tourists by using fewer spices so they have a milder flavour. If you’re like me and love a bit of spiciness, be sure to ask your waiter to include all the spices to make sure you get an authentic experience.
Fresh fish is at the top of the menu in seaside towns like Essaouira. The markets are packed with piles of seafood waiting to be bought and cooked up on the street-side barbecues that then fill the narrow alleyways with the smell of smoky fish.
Tea is much more than just a drink
Green tea served with mint and sugar is a staple in the Moroccan diet. You’ll be offered small glasses of tea everywhere you go. Even the market stall sellers offer steaming cups of tea to encourage you to sit down and have a chat while browsing their stalls.
The art of making a good cuppa is much more complex than you’d think. It’s almost a ceremonial process, as the boiling water is poured from a height from cup to cup and back into the pot before the tea is considered brewed and ready for drinking.
Tea has much importance in Moroccan culture and has hidden meaning that you might not notice on first appearances. Arranged marriages are common in Morocco, but ladies are given the option to turn down their suitor. To spare them the embarrassment of rejecting or accepting their potential husband they are invited to make tea for the families. If they add sugar to the tea it means they accept the proposal, but if they don’t add any sugar it means they decline and the marriage is never spoken of again. So ladies, if you’re looking for a marriage proposal in Morocco, make your guy a sweet cup of tea. Who knows where it could lead…
Dessert usually consists of a huge bowl of fresh fruit. The bowl is placed in the centre of the table and a few knives are passed around as everyone begins chopping and sharing around their fruit.
There are so many amazing flavours to discover in Morocco. The best thing you can do is head over and sample them for yourself!
About the Author: Monica Stott
Monica is a Twitter addict, travel blogger, iphoneographer and all-round travelaholic. She took an extended gap year after uni, spending eight months in South East Asia and over a year travelling and working in Australia. She worked on a diving island and drove all the way around the coast of Australia in a rusty old campervan. Her favourite destination is Thailand where she spent two months scuba diving, practising yoga, parting during full moons, half moons, quarter moons, black moons (any excuse for a party) and eating far too much Thai red curry.