Exploring Moroccan cuisine: Eating in, out and about

Friday July 01 2022

Dinner at Fez at the Restaurant MB. PHOTO | TONY MOCHAMA


Morocco, with 3,000 kilometres of coastline — from the Mediterranean Sea on its north to the Atlantic Ocean to its West — has some of the most abundant fishing waters in the world.

When we landed in Casablanca earlier this month, our first stop was at a bistro where we had a puff sugary pastry snack called briwat, and washed it down with sweet mint tea called atay served in a tiny glass.

Briwat is a fish and shrimp wrap, with cheese, lemon and pepper, in a triangular piece of pastry called warqa, similar to a samosa.

Atay is a popular beverage. Served from kettles with a long, curved spouts, Moroccans pour the tea from a great height.

The fish market of Casablanca reflects the country's rich variety of sea food, with tuna, turbot, red snapper, conger eel, mackerel, crab, molluscs and lobster available year round.

Our next stay was in Rabat, and the View Hotel had standard international fare.


The following day, lunching at the Rabat City Council parlour hosted by its president Aziz Derouich, the full glamour of Moroccan cuisine was turned on at the riverfront municipal restaurant.

Our lunch began with a choice of hot and cold salads, before a progressive feast was laid out on the tagine, the traditional Moroccan cooking vessel made of ceramic or unglazed clay with a round base and low sides.

'Poor man's' soup

There was a choice of lamb or chicken, but only after a starter of harrira, the "poor man’s" soup with pieces of meat that the country’s ruler, Mohammed the Fifth, has ordered served free in Morocco’s state soup kitchens.

Then there was the couscous, the most famous cuisine from the country — a Maghrebi dish of granules of rolled durum wheat semolina.

Dessert was kaab el ghzal (gazelle ankles, an almond paste pastry) and the classic ras el hanout, a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, anise, bay laurel, mace, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fennel, sesame seeds, cumin, black pepper, caraway, fenugreek, paprika, coriander, and, if you can afford it, saffron.

A day later, we drove 200 kilometres east to Fez, where we explored the ancient section called Medina, and ate the famous street food Ma’Quda, a fritter made from potato-based batter, pureed with garlic, salt, hot pepper and cheese. It was delicious.

In the evening, shunning the Western food of the Fez Marriot Jnan Palace Hotel, we crossed the street to a swanky Restaurant MB (Maroc Bistort) that specialises in local dishes for international guests and serves great French wines.

We had goat mutton with lemon pickle, the latter condiment common to both India and Morocco.

The khobz (bread) that is a staple with every Moroccan meal comes with smen, salted and fermented butter from Yemen.

Instead of Spanish olive oil, they use argan oil, from the kernels of the argan tree that is endemic to Morocco.