Moroccan food is as exotic and exciting as the country itself. It’s a heady mix of Arabic, Berber (North African), French and Spanish flavours and spices, all blended together into breads, salads and aromatic stews. And the best place to taste it? Morocco, of course. So if you’re heading there on holiday, here are seven things to eat and drink while you’re there.
1. Moroccan tagines
These traditional stews have their own blend of spices, which you’ll smell as soon as you lift the lid of the earthenware pot. The dish gets it’s name from the tagine it’s cooked in, which is basically a North African casserole pot. The meat is slowly cooked until it’s tender; you’ll find chicken, lamb and beer versions. This is also an amazing vegetarian option, with the vegetables soaked in gravy and absorbing all the ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika spices. They also sometimes throw in dates, prunes, almonds, olives and other preserved fruit (so maybe check if you have a nut allergy). It usually comes with bread or couscous.
Morocco’s vast coastline (1,200 miles to be exact) means fish is a large part of the diet here. Chermoula is a kind of fish stew, which is either baked or grilled. The chilli, saffron and coriander gives it a hefty kick.
You’ll definitely want to scoop up all the delicious juices from your tagine using the crust of Morocco’s staple loaf. Its flat shape is no accident, it means more crust for digging into the stews, soups and dips. Much more fun than using a knife and fork. It can also be a little chewy and is best eaten straight from the oven. You can also try flatbreads, rghaif (they’re like pancakes) and baghira (which is their version of a crumpet), served with dips like Zaalouk (smoked aubergine).
3. Moroccan soup
Harira soup is usually chosen to break the fast at sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. This steaming bowl of soupy-joy is mostly made with lentils and tomatoes, with chickpeas and sometimes meat added to it. Bissara (B’ssara) is another option, and you can even start the day with this hearty soup made from broad beans.
It’s safe to say that couscous is regarded as one of Morocco’s national dishes. Dried semolina is traditionally rolled by hand and sprinkled with water to create tiny pellets, which are then steamed to become couscous. It’s a lot fluffier than the stuff we’re used to in the UK, and usually comes with meat or vegetable stew. Garnishes vary from place to place, but the Berber tradition is to have it in buttermilk to make it more dessert-like.
5. Maakouda and other street foods
Trust us: you’re going to want to try the street food in Morocco. Especially when you’re walking around some of the world-famous souks like Jemaa el-Fnaa market in Marrakech. Maakouda are deep-fried potato balls or fritters that you can eat as a side or in a sandwich. They come with a dipping sauce for a bit of added punch. Of course you’ll get meat kebabs and grilled sardines, which need no explanation. But the steamed sheep heads might. You can buy “choice cuts” like the cheek or tongue. Go on, you’re on holiday.
6. B’stilla / Pastilla
This pie / tart hybrid originates in Fez and is a little bit of a random combination of sweet and savoury. You’ve got flaky pastry layers with pigeon (or chicken) meat, flavoured with almonds and spices packed in the middle. It’s topped off with icing sugar and a bit of cinnamon.
7. Moroccan sweets
Good news for anyone with a sweet tooth: you’ll be able to tuck into pastries, biscuits and other treats when you visit. If you see the word Meskouta – then expect to get a cake. While they’re not iced like in the UK, they are flavoured, often with orange juice. Lots of the sweets are flavoured with nuts, particularly almonds, especially the gazelle horns (or Kaab el Ghazal – so called because they are crescent-shaped). You’ll also find a lot of pastries, thanks to the country’s close connection to France.
And don’t forget the drinks
You’ll find the freshest orange juice on sale in the souks and streets – they’ll make it for you on the spot.
But it’s the mint tea that’s really worth trying. There’s a huge tradition of hospitality surrounding this drink. The chances are if you’re out shopping you’ll be offered some tea while you decide on your purchases. Maybe the ultimate sweetening of a deal. It’s basically a form of green tea, with fresh spearmint leaves and sugar.
It’s possible to drink alcohol in the majority of hotels and of course the licensed bars, but you won’t be able to to have a glass of wine or beer in the souks and street food markets. So stick to the soft drinks when you’re out and about.
It’s pretty easy to find flights to Marrakech – and it only takes about three and a half hours to get there. From there, you can either get the train, bus or hire a car if you have plans to visit more of the country.
Things to do in Morocco
Now you know what to eat, it’s a case of where. We’ve put together a Morocco guide to help you decide. Marrakech, in the centre of Morocco, remains the most popular destination, but Fez will give you an ideal of medieval Morocco while Tangier is a great place to hit the beach.
What would be on your plate?
We’d love you to share your favourite Moroccan dishes with us. Let us know by leaving a comment below.