The kingdom of Morocco is a sovereign state located in North Africa and is well known for its flavours and spices which are taking the globe by a storm. Due to constant influence of trade and colonizers, this region has managed to fuse their traditional tastes with an array of other cuisines and what is known as the Moroccan cuisine today is a mélange of Arabic, Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean and Iberian influences.
Known for their spice rubs and blends, the sheer experience of eating Moroccan food is heightened by the rich aroma the spices exude. Almost all dishes consist of the native spices found here like cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, fennel, fenugreek, verbena and saffron. More than 27 native spices are combined to create the famous spice blend known as ras el hanout. Other than spices, dry fruits like apricots, figs and dates and nuts like almonds and pistachios are also constant in almost all desserts and appetizers and make an appearance in few main course meals.
As a predominantly Islamic nation, Moroccan cuisine is heavily influenced by the religion as well. Moroccans prefer eating five meals a day and synchronizing them around the five times they pray in 24 hours. Here, people treat meals as a communal affair and believe in sharing with the less fortunate. It is also common in households to prepare couscous, a Moroccan delicacy, on Friday as it is considered to be the holiest day in the week.
The national food of Morocco is couscous which is consumed in abundance in all households. Couscous is essentially small steamed ball made of wheat semolina and pairs well with vegetables in form of a spicy stew or is simply topped with various kinds of meat and gravies. Another dish a staple here is the tajine. It is a kind of slow-cooked savoury stew and consists of lamb, vegetables, fruits and common Moroccan spices.
This soup is prepared in a traditional earthern pot which is believed to retain and enhance the flavor profile of tajine.
Moroccans are fiercely loyal to their breads and use the breads to whip up the tajine instead of relying on cutlery. The traditional bread of Morocco is called Khobz which has a chewy centre and is known for its versatility as it can be made using farina, barley or wheat flour. Other types of bread commonly consumed here include the harcha which is made of semolina and butter and pairs brilliantly with jam and spreads and the Mahrash (Arabic for rough) made of barley and is chewy, rustic and dense.
Blessed with 3000 kilometres of coastline, it is only obvious that Morocco boasts of fresh seafood like mackerel, sole, tune, mollusks, spider crab, lobster and swordfish. The fresh produce is often incorporated into the tajine to make it more flavorsome. Fish chermoula is a delight for seafood lovers as the traditional recipe of the grilled fish makes it sing of onions, cumin and saffron due to the intense spice rubs. As the largest exporter of sardines, the country brags of the best chili sardines you will ever taste.
A few Moroccan dishes you cannot afford to miss out are the Harira, a soup made of tomatoes, lentils and lamb, is consumed extensively in the month of Ramdan and the Maakouda, deep fried potatoes balls sold on the streets or in restaurants as appetizers. The Zaalouk is a common side dish made of eggplant, tomatoes and olive oil and served with crusty bread is another dish which is very popular with the locals and tourists alike. Pastilla or the pigeon pie is a perfect example of Moroccan gastronomy as it combines the sweet and savoury flavours beautifully. If you visit the country during Eid al-Adha, you can enjoy the sheep head which is roasted for hours with cumin, chilli and salt. The entire head is edible but the best parts are the cheek and the tongue.
Because the meals are heavy, Moroccan drinks aim to aid in better digestion of the food. Mint green tea is the most popular drink of Morocco. The tea here is unique as it contains huge amounts of sugar and has hints of gunpowder. Even though it is a Muslim country, Morocco
is known to prepare its own wine. The variety of wine found here is mainly red and of high quality because of the country’s high altitude mountains and French influence.
Moroccans are known to take their desserts very seriously and will definitely satiate your sweet tooth. You cannot leave the country without devouring the Briwat which is a deep-fried filo pastry stuffed with almonds. Sold across souks, Shebakia, a flower-shaped sesame cookie dipped in honey, is another favourite. Fekka, which is like a Western biscotti but laced with orange water and Meskouta which is a yogurt/lemon/orange flavoured cake are desserts you definitely need to try out.
If you like food with a soul and flair, the Moroccan cuisine is calling out to you!
Try out ; Mid Eastern Desserts written by Niharika
Written byNiharika Nandi
Niharika Nandi is a media trainee who loves exploring the fields of photography and baking simultaneously. She’s a self-proclaimed professional bathroom singer and believes that caffeine runs through her veins. This adrenaline junkie loves to pen down a million thoughts gushing through her mind at any instant and is very vocal about LGBTQ rights.