Moroccan Sfa

When most people think of Moroccan food two things come to mind; tagine and couscous. But, there is a wide range of Moroccan recipes that never find their way to restaurant menus. In fact you’ll typically only find these dishes served in homes. This is one reason it’s such a treat to get an invitation to a Moroccan home for a meal! While the combination of sweet and savory notes in sfa may seem strange, this is exactly what make it so appealing.

Sfa is a way to prepare broken vermicelli noodles. The small pasta pieces are steamed instead of boiled and then topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. While sometimes the dish is served simply with noodles and garnishes, other times it includes saffron infused chicken buried under the noodles. The full name of this dish is s’fa mdfouna or “hidden under”.  If you want to make this at home don’t be intimidating by the ingredients and steps. It will all pay off.

Moroccan Sfa Mdfouna


For Sfa Mixture

  • 1 pound (500 grams) vermicelli broken into pieces, roughly the same size
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 (80 grams) cup yellow raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar

For Chicken Preparation

  • 4 chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • 1 medium white onions diced
  • palmful of chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger or 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons (25 milliliters) vegetable or olive oil

To Decorate:

  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder


Sfa is steamed like couscous. If you’re unsure how to prepare couscous, this is a great tutorial to show you the steps. The liquid in the bottom of the couscoussier is simply salted water. Because the pieces of vermicelli are larger than couscous grains, you will likely need to steam 4-5 times. If using raisins, add them during the final steaming.

  • While the pasta is steaming you can prepare the chicken. In a large bowl add onions, spices, cilantro, butter and oil. Toss the chicken in the mixture until coated. You can leave this to marinate for a more intense flavor or cook right away
  • In a heavy bottomed pan, add a little bit of oil and turn on the heat to medium high.
  • Add the chicken mixture and brown.
  • Turn down the heat to medium and add a little bit of water to prevent burning, and the cinnamon stick.
  • Cover the pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the meat is very tender.
  • If there is liquid remaining reduce to a thick sauce and remove the cinnamon stick.
  • When the sfa is steamed through toss with butter and powdered sugar.
  • Prepare a large serving dish and place the meat mixture in the middle, covering with the remaining sauce.
  • Mound the sfa around the meat to create a dome.
  • Decorate the top with cinnamon, powdered sugar, and almonds. Traditionally this is done in geometric patterns but the choice is yours. Sometimes small bowls of powdered sugar and/or cinnamon are served on the side if people want to add more.
  • Eat hot!

This unique dish is just one of the countless Moroccan specialty dishes you may experience when visiting the country. If you’re ready to start eating, call us today to book your Morocco vacation. We promise you won’t leave with an empty stomach!