Morocco's top five food experiences, from mint tea to tagine
Often described as an ‘assault on the senses’, Morocco’s sights, sounds and smells linger long in the memory. Its food, too, is an unforgettable experience — immerse yourself in this eclectic cuisine, be it through street food tours or hands-on classes.
1. Sip mint tea
The quintessentially Moroccan ritual of handing out glasses of hot herbal tea is a convivial way to say ‘hello’. Chef Tarik Orty’s Atelier de Cuisine cookery school, near Tadouarte, is one of several places where you can learn about this archetypal pick-me-up, made by boiling Chinese gunpowder green tea with fresh herbs to bring out the flavours, then pouring from a height to aerate the top. Besides mint, other fragrant leaves such as thyme and lemon verbena may be included, depending on the region and season. Sugar, once considered essential, tends to be optional in these more health-conscious times.
2. Learn to cook in Fez
Cooking courses lasting anything from a couple of hours to a week or more are popping up all over Morocco, offering visitors a hands-on cultural experience that stimulates all five senses to the full. At Palais Amani hotel’s residential Fez Cooking School in Morocco’s spiritual and culinary capital, the Fez medina, visitors can spend a couple of days learning essential skills from a top local chef, heading into the souks to buy fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, warming up their tastebuds with local street food and returning to the rooftop kitchen to rustle up bissara (broad bean soup), zaalouk (grilled aubergine salad) and mouth-watering tagines.
3. Make bread in Meknès
Baking is a daily ritual in Morocco, a country where bread is so treasured it would be an affront to waste a morsel. Traditionally, it’s a wife’s job to make khobz, golden-brown loaves that can be as small as a saucer or as big as a dustbin lid. They’re puffier than flatbread and, torn apart, they’re perfect with a steaming tagine. While most homes have their own wood-fired oven, some Moroccans prefer to hand-mix, knead and shape their dough at home then take it to a faran (community oven), where the baker will cook it on the spot. Riad Lahboul, in Meknès, is one of several places offering courses that teach the entire process.
4. Explore the flavours of Chefchaouen
To spice up a tour of the photogenic city of Chefchaouen, local guides from Moroccan Food Tour offer culinary walks around the medina in the morning or evening, sampling delicacies as you go. On a meander through narrow lanes painted cornflower blue, you’ll work up an appetite by browsing the wares at grocer’s shops, fruit stalls and street food spots, nibbling on bread, cookies, dates, olives, goat’s cheese, walnuts and whatever fruit is in season, which could be oranges, pomegranates or persimmons. Finally, there’s a sit-down session at an informal restaurant offering traditional dishes such as carrot salad, fried fish, tagines and khobz bread.
5. Prepare couscous in an Amazigh village
Cooking couscous is easy: you just pour boiling water onto precooked grains, then leave them to stand, right? Wrong. The perfect dish of plump, fluffy couscous takes patience and dedication to prepare. On a group tour of rural Morocco with Intrepid Travel, visiting Amazigh family homes, your hosts will gladly demonstrate the correct technique. Using your fingers, rinse the raw grains, rub them with oil and water, then steam them three times, rubbing in more oil and water between steamings. As for which spices to add: look no further than ras el hanout, Morocco’s classic blend of over a dozen ingredients, including cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cloves.
Published in the April 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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