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Moroccan cuisine is very healthy, at least in general. Most dishes contain vegetables and rely on whole grains, freshly prepared food, spices and sweet fruit rather than refined sugar and deep-frying. They use lamb which is leaner than red meat, and couscous which is healthier than rice. But the health aspect isnʼt the only reason I love Moroccan food. The delicious combination of mouth-watering flavors is what makes it unique… Oh, the flavors.
Influenced over thousands of years by Berber, Jewish and Arab cultures, todayʼs Moroccan food is an exciting blend of spices and textures. The Berber influence is seen in the mobile way of cooking: grilled or slow cooking over hot coals, and breads and dips you can eat with your hands. Arabs introduced lamb, sweets and dates, while Jews brought their pickled lemons and the olives.
Moroccoʼs defining national dish is tagine and itʼs one of my favorite Moroccan dishes. Tagine is a clay cooking pot with a conical top, and itʼs also the dish that is cooked in said pot. The unique shape of the tagine and the slow-cooking method makes the ingredients (beef, lamb, chicken, veggies, etc.) tender and luscious. Definitely donʼt leave Morocco without trying one.
A traditional tagine
Couscous is another common Moroccan dish. Itʼs typically served with meat or vegetables, and like tagine it comes in a number of varieties. Berbers usually put in raisins and serve with a bowl of buttermilk. Another way of serving is covering the meat by a pyramid of couscous with the vegetables pressed into the sides.
Either way, expect to be served a massive portion you wonʼt come close to finishing.
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tea base with lots of mint leaves and sugar. No one actually knows how much sugar Moroccans put in their tea, but itʼs a lot.
Warning: This tea is borderline addictive.
Mint tea leaves at the souk
Moroccoʼs position by the coast means there are lots of fresh fish. Sardines represent more than 62% of the Moroccan fish catch, but anchovies, prawns and mackerel are also common at the fish markets and on the menu cards. The best place to get fresh fish is by the coast, like in Agadir and Essaouira.
grilled calamari – Agadir
Weʼve talked a lot about meat, but fear not vegetarians and vegans of the world. Morocco may be known for its (ah-mazing) slow-cooked meat and kebabs, but itʼs also famous for its veggie dishes. Every meal is served with salad (cooked or fresh), and most dishes can be cooked without meat, like harira (Moroccan soup), vegetarian tagine and couscous with vegetables. Straight vegetarian dishes include lentils (known as addis) and loubia which is white kidney beans cooked in a tomato based sauce.
Vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Morocco:
Tip: Tagines and couscous are often cooked with a meat stock for the broth. If you canʼt check this, only go for the dishes that you know are vegetarian for sure. Also, be aware that the oil used to fry may have fried meat in it as well.
Moroccans have a serious sweet tooth and if the sugary, delicious cakes werenʼt enough, they often come with a glass of hot, sweet mint tea. Here are some of the best desserts:
Apple pie with cinnamon and honey
Baba ganoush is cooked eggplant mixed with tahini, olive oil, garlic, cumin and black olives, and itʼs a common side dish typically served with bread. So is humus, which I absolutely LOVE. The flavor-combination of mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic is awesome, especially when served with a pile of fresh pitas. Yum!!
Salads in Morocco are different to what you would expect and generally served with lots of bread. The vegetables are either raw or cooked, hot or cold, flavoured by herbs and spices, and served with a main course such as grills, tagine or couscous. A popular salad is zaalouk, which is eggplant, tomato and garlic. The carrot salad and tkʼtouka made of peppers, tomatoes and spices are also common in Morocco.
Six Moroccan salads served with black olives
So, one big thing. If you go to Morocco, youʼre going to see dates for really cheap, everywhere. Iʼm a total sucker for dates both fresh or in cooking. Just this weekend we made bacon-wrapped dates in the oven, and oh my gosh, talk about wow! Theyʼre such a versatile food, and if youʼre a date connoisseur like me, youʼll definitely get a kick out of trying these.
The tasty Moroccan kebabs, also known as brochettes, are found on almost every street corner. The chicken, lamb, or beef kebabs are rubbed in salt and spices, then grilled over charcoal fire. Ooooh….that taste. You have to try the kebabs.
Blog by Miriam Risager
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