Moroccan cuisine is known for its mix of North African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking styles. Often combining sweet and salty elements, Moroccan dishes burst with flavor. Here are some of the most popular national dishes to try during your first trip to Morocco.
Tajine is any dish that is slowly simmered in traditional terracotta cookware. The pots are round with a low, wide base and topped with a conical lid in order to allow all the aromas and flavors to bake into the meat and vegetables while in the oven or on the stovetop. While there are many regional varieties of tajine, two of the most popular dishes are chicken tajine with olives and lamb tajine with figs or almonds. To dine the Moroccan way, use the thick Moroccan bread in lieu of a spoon; the bread soaks up the juices and flavors of the dish.
Probably the most well-known dish of Moroccan cuisine is couscous. When you order a couscous entree in a restaurant, you can expect a plethora of slow-cooked meat and vegetables along with a heaping plate of steamed couscous, little round granules of semolina wheat. In Moroccan households and at restaurants, one large plate of couscous is often shared by several people. To eat it in true Moroccan style, use your right hand to pick up some of the couscous and some of the meat and vegetable mixture. Then toss it lightly in your hand to form it into a ball and pop the whole ball in your mouth.
One of the most decadent Moroccan dishes, bastilla is a flaky layered pastry filled with savory meat, sweet almond filling and eggs. Traditionally made with pigeon meat and served at weddings, you can now find bastilla in pastry shops and at many restaurants, although it is most commonly made with chicken. Be aware that if you’re served bastilla during a special occasion or at a Moroccan home, it may only be the appetizer. Just one slice is rich enough to fill you up, so be sure to budget your stomach space for the main course!
A hearty Moroccan soup that is traditionally served on special occasions, harira can be a meal in itself. The soup has a tomato base, is chock full of subtle herbs and spices and includes a generous amount of lentils and chickpeas; some versions include meat such as lamb or beef. During Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting from sunup to sundown, harira is specially prepared for the daily breaking of the fast. It’s often eaten along with hard-boiled eggs and bread. If you’re not traveling in Morocco during Ramadan, you can still often find harira listed in the appetizer section of restaurant menus.
Along with any of these dishes, be sure to try Moroccan mint tea or freshly squeezed juice. Popular juices include banana, orange, avocado and almond milk, called jus d’almond (juice of almonds) in French. We’ve talked nonstop in our Morocco blog about the tea that is often steeped with a generous lump of sugar, so don’t be alarmed if it’s much sweeter than you’re used to!
Get more help on how to dine in a Moroccan restaurant.
Written by Heather Carreiro.
Photo by nicolas.loeuillet.