A Moroccan Foodie Experience

Moroccan food entrances the senses with pungent odors, colorful platters, complicated flavors and unique textures. As such, it’s common for Moroccans to tell you to experience your food. Dishes have much more than just calories-they have stories. Those yearning for an authentic Moroccan “foodie” experience must understand this with each dish consumed. The first requirement for a Moroccan foodie is to eat slowly and savor. Those who follow this rule will notice some clear patterns in Moroccan cooking-no preservatives, fresh food, locally grown products and juxtaposing flavors.

Any Moroccan meal must have a dish of seasoned olives and freshly cooked, round bread on the table. The olives, coming in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors, serve as a primer for the palate. The official first dish is often a soup or light salad dish. The soup is most often Harira, a thick and hearty lentil, tomato and blended chickpea soup. Depending on the region, the spices will vary. Either way, the texture is rough, the temperature hot.

Salads also have a rather rough consistency. Much of the salad dishes are, like the Harira, a simple combination of chopped vegetables such as onions and tomatoes sprinkled with spices such as turmeric or parsley. Another salad potential is cooked eggplant mixed with onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Moroccan cooking has a knack for mixing the salty and the sweet, and this is obvious in the first dish as well as the main dish.

The main dish can either be savory or sweet, depending on the occasion. Weddings and special events tend to offer bastilla-a chicken pastry savored with sweet saffron and cinnamon. On the holy day, Friday, families cook communal dishes such as cous cous-a pasta-like dish covered in broth, cooked vegetables and meat of choice. Cous cous can, in true Moroccan tradition, also be served as a sweet dish. Cous cous is a detail dish that requires diners to sample the different flavors in the various vegetables and meats. Another more colloquial dish is tajine. This dish also echoes the Moroccan mantra of fresh, basic and local. A ceramic dish encases meat, vegetables and spices such as libzar (pepper), cumin, coriander and paprika to cook the dish as a whole. The end product is a fusion of flavors well worth a diner’s time and effort.

At the very end, clean your palate with mint tea, brewed and poured in a methodically specific manner, maximizing flavor with bubbles on the top of the cup. The secret to Moroccan mint tea is not the tea itself, but the addition of real mint to a Chinese blend tea. The mint leaves are fresh and crushed adequately to release the mint flavors and allow them to interact with the dark tea. The final ingredient is, of course, a lump of pure sugar.

Speaking of sugar, no Moroccan will let you leave their home without a small desert. Pastries covered in karfa (cinnamon), anise seeds and sesame seeds are very popular. The pastry dough is often covered in pure honey and encases ground nuts, such as pistachio. For those that prefer the more basic deserts, the ultimate Moroccan sweet is extremely simple: orange slices covered in cinnamon. Following these recommendations, while emanating fresh simplicity, anyone can embrace the Moroccan “foodie” tradition.