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Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goat head and other fun foods of Morocco

Morocco may be Andy's and my ideal food country in certain ways. For me, there is an abundance of delicious, cheap yogurt in very fun flavors, and there are chickpeas--my favorite legume!--everywhere. Throw in marketplaces full of dates and prunes, and dinners full of vegetables, and I'm in food heaven.

For Andy...well, first you have to have lived with him for a few years and heard him say about a zillion times that he'd like a "glass of tea" when he actually means that he wants a cup of tea. Second, you have to have seen him empty three packets of Splenda (that's the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar) into every cup of tea he drinks. Once you've done that, you may appreciate how we are finally in a country where the tea is not only actually served in glasses, but is also presweetened to a point that even Andy doesn't feel the need to add more sugar. Perfection! But we also like the foods of Morocco for the regular old reasons that we tend to love food when we travel--it's inexpensive, it's tasty, and there's a lot of it to be found right out on the streets. Without further ado, here's some of what we've been putting down our gullets in Morocco!

Every dinner in Morocco includes some bread. It is round like a pita, but thicker and crustier outside, fluffier inside.

Our first dinner in Morocco, at a restaurant in Tetouan! Andy got chicken with fries (boring!) and I got a meat and vegetable cous cous. We soon learned that meat in Morocco always means lamb--fine by me, not so fine by Andy. My dish also featured chickpeas and huge fat raisins, and the cous cous itself was yellow and spiced and really delicious--the best we've had on the trip, Andy and I agree.

Accompanying the meal was our first ever lemon Fanta. Many friends have sung the praises of lemon Fanta to us through the years, and we are happy to report that it did not disappoint! Like a delicious fizzy lemonade. (And about a million times better than the red-flavor Fanta we tried in Nicaragua...)

Near our hotel, we found a street in the medina that we dubbed "candy alley" because all of the sweets-sellers were there. Andy got this large bag of assorted peanutty halva-like sweets, one more sugary than the next.

Speaking of sweets, there were a few shapes that we couldn't tell whether they were pastries or intestines. Luckily, this one turned out to be a pastry.

In Chefchaouen, we found a roving seller of coconut and peanut cookie-type things. The coconut was better, like a big macaroon.

But our favorite street food in Chaouen came from "the bread man," who sold huge warm slices of this cornbread-like bread and also traditional Moroccan pancakes from his griddle outside the medina for very cheap.
Snails! We would see groups of people clustered around these big steaming pots, slurping from bowls...and trays of live snails, slowly trying to make their getaway...

Besidse cous cous, the other staple Moroccan meal is tagine, or stew. This one is chicken and vegetables.

My favorite yogurt in Morocco, pistacio-flavored Yawmy. Why doesn't Dannon market such delicious flavors in the United States?

Here are some coconut-dusted cakey rolls that Andy got for breakfast the day of our big hike outside of Chefchaouen.And here's Andy eating one beside the lovely blue walls of the town.
Our best meal in Chefchaouen was a three-course feast on the main square in the medina. There are a lot of restaurants there--if you ever go, we recommend the one with the plush blue benches. We started off with salads, which came with the local fresh goat cheese on top. It was kind of like ricotta. Yum! (Of course Andy wouldn't eat his, so I got double cheese.) We then had great cous cous and finished with slices of sweet orange sprinkled with cinnamon. Here's a salad shot.

Honey-soaked, phyllo-dough pastries like these are a staple of our diet in Morocco. Sometimes they are filled with ground nuts, sometimes with figs, sometimes with cous cous-y never know what you're gonna get.
These have nothing in them, they're just fried stuff in honey.
More ooey-gooey goodness. This one had lots of flavor, like rosewater, cinnamon, and more spices--a little too intense for me, but Andy liked it.

Here is some "Moroccan whiskey"--aka mint tea. Made of green tea, fresh mint, and a lot of sugar, it is the national obsession...and ours. There are salons de the (teahouses) everywhere and we've been to several, but the best we've had so far was the tea that came with our free breakfasts at Hotel Bab Boujloud in Fes, below.
Romantic dinner, Fes-style, complete with Coke bottle candle-holder. Here you can see our desserts: oranges with cinnamon for Andy, fresh yogurt for me, oh, and the olives left over from the beginning of the meal. In addition to bread, you usually get a free plate of olives with your dinner in Morocco.

In Fes, soup is very popular. This soup had various legumes, a few noodles, and a couple of bits of ground lamb in it and cost less about 35 cents a bowl, with bread.

This little bowl of chickpea soup was only 1 dirham, or about 12 cents, out on the big square in Fes at dusk.
Also on the square was a man grilling up sausages. For 65 cents, you could get a pita-full--half red, half white. We postulate that the red ones were made of lamb and the white ones...well, we don't want to know.

The market in Fes is overflowing with dates of many prices. Who knew there were so many grades of dates?
Also, many shops full of spices, legumes, and grains......and we saw plenty of these shops, which seem to be selling buckets of fat.
If dates, spices, and fat are too tame for you, just head straight on to the goat head vendor.
On to Meknes, where we had our first taste of pastilla. We bought this flaky triangle-shaped, sugar-dusted pastry thinking it would be filled with sweet stuff, but when we took a bite...chicken!
It was the prophet Mohammed's birthday that day, sort of like a Muslim Christmas, and Meknes was apparently the place to be. There was a big carnival and lots of street vendors out with special foods. Here is a man with a cart full of prickly-pear-like cactus fruits. For 1 dirham, he'd peel you a fruit and put it on a toothpick like a lollipop. Lots of seeds, but not bad.
The lip-staining effect came free of charge!
Right outside our hotel was a cafe selling potato galettes, or little deep-fried pancakes, for 1 dirham apiece. I think we ate 12.
And a few doors down was a pastry shop selling this crumbly delight, which we think was made of cous cous? It was delicious. We went back the next day, but there was no more.
We finished the festival night with high tea on the main square in Meknes. Overpriced, but atmospheric.
This seems to be the favorite yogurt in Morocco based on how many containers I've seen discarded in the streets. It's supposed to be pomegranate flavored, but it's bubble-gum pink and tastes mostly like sugar to me.
In Sale, the city right next to Rabat, I got this giant fried fish and salad sandwich. OK, actually, due to a miscommunication (my French has not been so great lately), I ended up with two. Oops.
Fans of birthday cake would like Morocco. You can get these slices of cake everywhere, in many colors (flavors?) and based on my sample in Rabat, they are moist and tasty.
Hawai is a popular soft drink in Morocco. It is orange-flavored, with maybe a bit of a tropical twist. Pretty good, though it's no lemon Fanta.
A much better beverage was this fresh "strawberry juice" that our couchsurfing host Hamid made for us in Rabat. Strawberries, milk, and sugar. We drank that blenderful right down!
Hamid took us to one of his favorite restaurants, which had these fun scroll-of-parchment menues. "The king has a message for you!" he joked.
My tagine of lamb with prunes and sesame seeds was fantastic, one of my favorites in Morocco.
On to Casablanca, where we ate our way around the medina for dinner the one night we were there. We started at a hole-in-the-wall soup place, where we got very nice blended chickpea soups and two big hunks of bread each for about $1.00 total. We think we got special "tourist treatment" because were the only ones who got our bread served on paper instead of straight on the not-so-clean tabletop...
Just outside the medina was a man squeezing fresh orange juice for 35 cents a glass and another man serving up hot spiced chickpeas for 12 cents a cone. Score. (I should also note that the chickpea cone was made of printed scrap paper, maybe from an internet cafe...we applaud the reuse of paper, though wonder if that means we're eating toner...)
The main square of the medina in Marrakech is full of dried-fruit vendors. The prices are definitely tourist prices, but the displays are pretty.
Better priced are the snail-steaming stands--65 cents for a small bowl of snails. You get a bowl of snails in some broth and a toothpick for picking the critters out of their shells. My husband, who will not eat cheese, yogurt, or lamb, is apparently just fine with eating snails.
Snail face, snail face, gaahhh!!
The main square is full of food stalls, and if you can handle the aggressive touts all trying to pull you into their place, there are some deals to be found. There were a couple of soup stands, and we chose this one because they gave you fun big spoons for ladling the soup into your mouth.
Andy got sucked into this dessert stand, where he had a very strong ginseng tea and some weird sesame paste stuff for about 65 cents. I did not care for either, and since he had a cold, he claimed he couldn't really taste them, anyway.
So, overall, food in Morocco is fun and good value. Andy's gotten a little bit tired of cous cous and tagine after a couple of weeks, but I'm still enjoying all the veggies and fruits, since I there won't be so much produce when we get into the desert. There may well be more goat head, though. Stick around to find out!


  1. Y'all are awesome!! I'm going to see a friend in Rabat soon, and this is a major help and joy! thanks so much!

  2. I love morocco !!!