My first impressions of Moroccan food
I just came back from Morocco and I am full of positive impressions about Morrocan food. Of course, it’s not just their food what is amazing but it is among top 3 things for sure. Morrocan food seems so healthy and natural, they don’t eat much processed food, in fact, almost none at all. All their dishes are based on fresh vegetables and meat, and if you travel around Morocco you will see how much cultivated land and cattle they have.
Another reason why Moroccan food is so healthy and easy to digest, is “tagine”. Tagine is a Moroccan dish made of meat and vegetables that is slow cooked in the oven or outside on a wood fire. The pot where they cook this dish is called tagine and that’s how tagine dish got its name. It is a ceramic or clay pot with a cone-shaped lid and you can buy it in every corner of Morocco. That way of cooking tagine is very healthy, all ingredients preserve their vitamins and remain juicy. Moroccan tagine dishes can vary a lot, from different types of meat, vegetables and spices, but each one I tried was super delicious.
Facts about Moroccan food you didn’t know about
During my 10-day stay in Morocco I have learned some interesting facts about Moroccan food.
Moroccans drink a lot of fresh orange juice. Everywhere you go, even to some secluded villages and spots in the Atlas mountains, you will see people selling fresh orange juice. Orange juice is also an inevitable part of Moroccan breakfast.
Speaking of Moroccan breakfast, I’ve noticed that they usually serve sweet dishes, like different kind of pastries and pancakes, jams and marmalades.
You have probably heard they drink mint tea, and that is true. But, the mint tea they drink is totally different from the regular mint tea. It’s sweeter and it usually contains other herbs and spices. I have enjoyed drinking Berber tea, which has a lot of different ingredients including mint, ginseng, anis and every mix of Berber tea is different from the other.
It is interesting to see diversity in Moroccan cuisine– it is a blend of Berber, Arabic, Moorish, French and Ottoman cuisines. Arabic people brought different spices, dried fruits and nuts which are very present in meat dishes. Tagine and couscous based dishes are coming from Berber cuisine. They invented tagine pot for cooking and a healthier style of food preservation.
It also surprised me to see a lot of kebabs, shawarmas and similar meat-based dishes you can find in Turkish cuisine.
Even though they use a lot of spices, their food is not too spicy, at least not to me. Maybe it’s because of their way of cooking, I don’t know, but it’s not spicy like Cypriot, Turkish or Mexican cuisine.
Another fact about Moroccan food that really surprised me is that they eat a lot of bread, and not just during the three regular meals, but also like a snack inbetween. They usually dip bread in argan and olive oil, and some sauce similar to peanut butter, which I think is amlou. It surprised me to see they eat olives almost as much as in Greece, but to be honest, I wasn’t so crazy about Moroccan olives.
13 amazing dishes to try in Morocco
1. Argan honey and oil
Argan oil is one of the rarest oils in the world, and argan trees grow almost exclusively in Morocco. There you should try argan honey which is one of the best honey flavors I have tasted ever! Moroccans use argan oil as food and not just in cosmetics products. Dipping argan oil in a Berber or Moroccan bread with a cup of mint tea makes a perfect snack in Morocco.
A totally unique way to prepare chicken, this traditional Moroccan dish gives chicken a new taste. The lemon is salted and pickled for six months, and then the chicken is stewed for hours with lemon and olives. Of course, there are some additional spices that give this dish a unique flavor such as cinnamon, ginseng, and ginger.
This sauce is an inevitable part of an afternoon snack together with mint or Berber tea, argan honey, argan oil and Moroccan bread. It is similar to peanut butter and I think there’s a version with almonds as well.
4. Moroccan pancakes
Baghrir and msemen are the names of Moroccan breakfast food you won’t be able to skip. Baghrir pancakes are more fluffy and similar to American pancakes and msemen is more like a flatbread. Moroccans usually serve these pancakes with caster sugar, and lot of different marmalades and jams.
Number one Moroccan food of Berber origin. It is like a meat and vegetables stew, cooked for hours in a clay pot. There are different tagine dishes and even if you eat tagine every day during your trip in Morocco, you won’t get a chance to try all of them. There are classic tagine dishes with chicken, lamb or beef, spices and vegetables. If you like sweet taste in meat dishes, try chicken or beef with prunes or apricots. Some tagine dishes feature boiled eggs and ground meat. Whatever tagine you choose, you will get soft and flavorful meat you won’t taste anywhere else.
These are meat skewers, usually one type of meat of your choice: chicken or beef. They are similar to Greek souvlaki and served with French fries, and different Moroccan salads. You’ll see them almost everywhere you go in Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and all the other cities. The best ones I tasted were in Fes, and you’ll know which ones to buy just by the smell coming from the grill!
7. Kefta kebabs
Ground meat on a stick, this is a typical Moroccan street food but you can find it in any restaurant too. Kefta kebabs are made of beef and lamb, seasoned with Moroccan spices. The smell is so good that you cannot pass the food stall without temptation to try them.
8. Moroccan bread
This bread is a miracle! It usually stays uncovered all day, very often it is placed outside but somehow it is always fluffy and fresh. It is served all the time, even during a tea time. The best Moroccan bread is in the Atlas mountains but other parts of Morocco don’t fall too far down the list.
Even though you can buy and eat couscous everywhere in the world, Moroccan couscous is a high quality one. It is served with roasted chicken, lamb or beef, baked potatoes, carrots and topped with onion sauce.
One of the most popular Moroccan desserts, as you can see it in almost every street of the medina. Chebakia is pastry that is deep-fried and coated with honey, sesame and rosewater. It has similar taste to Greek and Turkish baklava. There are several more Moroccan desserts that look similar in colour and have similar honey flavor, but they are shaped differently. People usually sell all types of desserts in one place, and you can get a pound of candy for about $5 USD almost everywhere you go.
11. Mint and berber tea
This is no an ordinary mint tea, as it’s more sweet and easy to drink and you can drink it anywhere in Morocco. Berber tea has more spices because it is a mix of different herbs such as anis, mint, dried flowers, verbena, sage, lemongrass. Moroccan mint tea has added sugar whereas berber tea doesn’t have it, but it still tastes sweet because of stevia.
This is a typical Moroccan appetizer, and usually when you order dinner they serve you several small plates of different Moroccan appetizers free of charge. Zaalouk is a cold salad with eggplant and tomato. It reminds me of melitzanosalata, a Greek appetizer.
13. Moroccan lamb
Whatever lamb dish you try in Morocco, it would be delicious. Whether it is a lamb tagine, or roasted lamb, the choice is yours. The taste of lamb is so good, like it is a farm-to-table dish.
Bonus: Camel burger
Even though this is not a traditional Moroccan food, it is good to mention that you can try a camel burger in Morocco. It is not the type of burger you will find easily in other countries, but in Morocco you can. The meat has a stronger taste than beef burger, but it has a lot of spices that possibly hide the smell.