As soon as we arrived to our Riad in Marrakech, we were offered dinner in the terrace. I was excited to finally try my first Moroccan meal. I’ve visited Egypt and Turkey and so I thought I had an idea of what the food would be like.
I imagined humus and some meat dishes but as our first course arrived, we were served a plate of bread and chopped peppers and tomatoes. Different but delicious. Then we were served chicken with what we thought was onions but turned out to be orange peel. We ate as the call to prayer rang and were grateful for a good first meal. My mom thought there was a chance we could be served something more exotic but honestly I was ready to try anything.
That was the first and last time we ate that chicken. What we ate for the next two weeks was couscous, pastilla, tajine and more tajine.
At every menu we looked at and every restaurant we ate in, the menu was basically the same. Couscous and vegetables, chicken pastilla and about 9 different types of tajine. At first we thought tajine was a chicken or meat dish but it’s actually a famous Berber dish that is named after the ‘earthenware pot’ it is cooked in.
You can get chicken, beef, or lamb tajine combined with olives and onions, figs or dates, or raisins and peas. The better tasting tajines are the ones combined with sweeter ingredients. Ingredients like dates or raisins perfectly contrasts the strong flavor from the spices they use. I had a tajine with figs and onions that was unforgettable but had one with olives that I wish I could forget.
Couscous and vegetables is exactly that. A mountain of couscous with usually seven different types of vegetables. It’s dry and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. They bring you a sauce separately that you can drizzle over it but it honesty doesn’t taste like much. Well, except once when I ate it at a highly recommended restaurant called NOMAD. That couscous had meat, dates, vegetables, and it was flavorful and delicious.
And finally, pastilla. Now that is the one thing I’ll miss. Pastilla is basically a pie usually made with chicken and drizzled with cinnamon and sugar on top. Today Pastilla is the national dish of the city of Fes, Morocco and it is delicious! I had it as many times as I could but sadly it didn’t show up in most menus.
There is also a lot of BBQ items but that just means meat or chicken on a stick with vegetables on the side. By the end of our trip in Morocco, I have to be honest, we were tired of the food. Too much tajine. Not enough variety. I always condemn people who eat McDonalds when they are abroad because I just think, “How can you eat that when there are so many different things to try and explore?!” But I get it now. After the first week, I gave in. I suggested we eat McDonalds because I could not think of eating tajine again. We had burgers, fries, and ice cream and it was a nice little piece of the familiar.
I had some really nice meals while in Morocco but it’s safe to say I won’t be looking for Moroccan food back in the States.