There’s got to be more to Moroccan cuisine than aromatic tagines and pomegranate-studded couscous and tagine, right? Absolutely!
Getting to the core of Morocco’s incredible and diverse food scene starts with sampling their street food. It’s time to venture into the many medinas, look out for hole-in-the-wall eateries and embrace roadside dining.
But with so many amazing market stall treats to try, where do you even begin? Fear not, I’ve got you covered with this list of must-eats to tick off on your adventures around Morocco…
Thought of by many as the national meal of Morocco, this hearty soup is believed to have its roots in Berber tradition. It’s also closely associated with the month of Ramadan, as it’s often the first dish eaten to break the fast. Made from tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, rice, chunks of lamb and plenty of earthy spices, like turmeric and cinnamon – it’s a real crowd pleaser. Sold everywhere from restaurants to streetside carts, you won’t struggle to slurp your way through a bowl or two of harira.
These long, thin North African sausages pack a real punch, particularly when compared to their tamer European cousins. They’re created using lamb mince, beef mince or a combination of the two, but it’s the harissa, paprika and other melange of spices that gives these meaty morsels their oomph. Buy them stuffed into freshly baked khobz (or Moroccan flatbreads) from the street sellers lining the local squares. They marry perfectly with a side of spicy tomato salsa-style dipping sauce too.
Morocco exports more sardines than anywhere else in the world, who knew? So, don’t be surprised when you see them being sold at market stalls all over the country. This street food staple is served grilled or deep-fried and filled with a zingy chermoula relish, made from parsley, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Whilst they’re utterly delicious when eaten on their own, they work brilliantly in sandwiches too – great for a convenient on-the-go bite.
Hole-in-the-wall eateries can be spotted all over Morocco, and one of the undeniably delicious specialities they serve up is maakouda. These filling golden fritters are made from mashed or grated potatoes, garlic, cumin, onions and coriander, which are then dipped in beaten eggs before frying. They’re a real family favourite and make the ideal snack or side dish. Some Moroccans even choose to use them as a sandwich filling – yum!
You may be tempted to veer sharply away from stalls selling steaming bowls of boiled snails (or babbouche). But, this dish is one of the most flavour-packed plates you’re likely to sample in the whole of Morocco. The molluscs are simmered in a soup seasoned with a plethora of different herbs and spices, such as aniseed, sweet and spicy pepper, bitter orange peel and mint. You’ll find them being served up by the ladle-full from carts in the medinas. It’s up to you whether you choose to buy a bowl of the broth or try the snails by scooping them out with a toothpick.
Who doesn’t love a doughnut? I know I do! And sfenj are just that, a light and fluffy Maghrebi treat. Created using very basic ingredients: water, flour, sugar and salt, they’re then cooked in hot oil until beautifully crispy on the outside. They can be eaten plain, sugar-coated, or honey drenched – you choose. And you’ll see them being fried up first thing in the morning for brekkie, or late in the afternoon as a snack to accompany a glass of mint tea or coffee.
This Middle Eastern classic isn’t likely to be new and exotic for most travellers stumbling upon it, but the Moroccans certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to shawarma. Take your pick of meats and decide whether to have it dished up on a plate, in a sandwich or wrap. You’ll also have your choice of sides and toppings, we’re talking tahini, hummus, pickled vegetables, salad and so much more.
8. Almond milkshake
It’s no secret that Moroccans love a mint tea, but they’re also big fans of creamy almond milkshakes. Made by whizzing together almonds, milk, dates and a splash of orange flower water for a little added sweetness – this beverage is best served ice cold. If the idea of an almond shake isn’t calling to you, then maybe try a popular avocado smoothie instead or alternatively choose your own signature blend of seasonal fruits.
Got a sweet tooth? Then you won’t be able to resist these sugary delights. Chebakia is a local Moroccan pastry shaped to look like a rose. These doughy treats are then fried, slathered in a syrup made from honey and rosewater, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Another Ramadan favourite, families usually cook them up by the bucketload. Do your best to try one from a roadside seller as homemade ones are a cut above the machine-made versions. Please note these are seriously addictive – you have been warned!
If you crossed a crêpe with a soft flatbread, the result would be msemmen. Unlike your typical French pancake, this Maghrebi goodie is made from working and folding thin layers of dough rather than using a batter. It’s then fried on a hotplate, not dissimilar to an Indian tava, until golden brown. They can either be stuffed with fillings like kefta and onions or spicy herbs and vegetables. Or they can be topped with butter, honey or even cheese. This is a favoured early morning and afternoon snack, usually enjoy alongside a cup of hot tea (no surprises there).