Marrakech and Moroccan Cuisine

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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When we were deciding on where to go for our honeymoon, the first thing that came to my mind was the location’s food. Since I’m such a foodie it was definitely a key criterion in deciding our destinations of choice. So I really wasn’t surprised when Morocco was made it on the list (plus it was close to Portugal). Just the thoughts of Morocco conjured up images of lamb tagines (Moroccan stew cooked in a special pot aka a tagine) and spiced couscous; I could barely take it anymore. Luckily time seems to fly as you get older and after months of planning we found ourselves landing in Marrakech.

Djemma el Fna market
The first thing on our itinerary (aside from finding our riad) was to head to the famed Djemaa el fna square, the main market square in Marrakech. Since we arrived at night, all the food stalls were already set up just beckoning us to taste their food. All the stall owners and workers were out trying to entice anybody and everybody from the streets to sit at their tables and not the one to the left, the right or across from them (we soon found out it’s because they all served the same types of food). Of course it helped that no matter which food stall you sat down at, you’re always faced with delicious meats and veggies. The only qualm I had was that the portions were so small, luckily it’s very economical to eat at these stalls and you can order plates upon plates of food. If you’re an adventurous one you can even try their local staples – sheep’s head (boy, was it gamey), fatty meat stews (very very fatty) and snails (Morocco was once a French colony after all).

Food stall
If you didn’t enjoy being pestered at the food stalls, there are many different restaurants that also surround the square and offer roof top terraces to allow you to view the craziness of the market without actually having to brave the storm, so to speak. Chez Chegrouni offers and interesting rabbit tagine, which was a reputable size and quite flavourful. Café Argana located just on the other side of the square also provided some delicious desserts and Moroccan nut filled Patisserie des Princes pastries, which can be found also a little further down the road on Rue Bab Agnaou.

Moroccan Pastries
There were also many different restaurants hidden along the crazy maze like medina in Marrakech. These restaurants do require a little perseverance to find, since no map really quite details where exactly they’re located. So not for the faint of heart, but if you keep trying and start to really read every single sign posted along the way, you’ll eventually find them and once you do, you won’t be disappointed. Since these restaurants often cater to the tourists, you’ll notice that the prices here reflect more of Europe rather than Northern Africa and so do the menus. We had a chance to visit the famous Le Foundouk to try their famous meat skewers, but they were also known for their fusion cuisine as well (which is the new thing in Marrakech). The atmosphere and décor itself should entice a visit (don’t forget to look up to see the crazy candle lit chandelier).

Chicken Dish
Villa Flore was a quaint little restaurant serving French cuisine located near our riad. Again it was a little hard for us to find according to the maps, but once we made it there and was escorted in to the courtyard of the restaurant, all the noise of Marrakech seemed to fade away. The duck confit was delicious as was the tagines (try the pastile pie aka squab or pigeon), I would advise against getting the Moroccan wine, but it was an experience none the less, especially while dining literally under the stars.

Pastile Pie
There were a few other highlights of our trip to Morocco, including a lovely hammam experience (a Moroccan spa which features a head to toe scrub down and massages) at Riad Monceau. Our initial choice was Les Bains de Marrakech, which was booked up for 2 weeks! Luckily we came across Riad Monceau which allowed us to book for the following evening. Let’s just say it was a great 2 hour experience of head to toe cleansing and after all that walking around the dusty streets of Marrakech, it was well warranted. Of course once one is that clean, it made it very very hard to go back in to those aforementioned dusty streets, once or twice I found there was some unknown substance that splashed on my feet. It was best to leave it at unknown.

Moroccan Salad
Overall, we found Marrakech to be an experience of its own (carpet sellers anybody?), the food to be different from what we expected (more fragrant, less spicy) and the people were, well, in our faces most of the time (don’t get me started). I don’t know when I’ll be headed back to Morocco, but at least I can now say I’ve tasted true Moroccan food and another item has been checked off my “to eat visit” list!

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