Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moroccan Culinary Delights: Part II

So here I am again, with the second installment of mouth-watering Moroccan foods.


The meat question might seem tricky in Morocco where the great majority of the population is Muslim and therefore doesn't eat pork. However, you will be surprised at the various tasty alternatives - chicken, beef, veal, lamb, mutton and seafood feature regularly on the table in all kinds of tantalizing dishes. Brochettes, or grilled pieces of meat on metal sticks, are an extremely popular fast food, usually served with salad and fries or with grilled vegetables. Whole chickens roasting on a rotating spit can be found anywhere, and Moroccans have perfected the technique to ensure that all parts of the chicken stay succulent on the inside, with a crispy layer of skin on top. Meat is a prized addition to tajines (clay pot stews with various ingredients) and couscous dishes, with the addition of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, or squash, among others. And of course there's kalia. This mixture of cooked meat and eggs is a very popular cheap street food, usually served on bread as a sandwich or cooked with veggies in a tajine.

Some of the more unusual meat dishes include roast sheep's heads (which I never got to try) and snail soup, sold by street vendors in the evenings and sending out a pungent aroma not advised for delicate stomachs. Usually, only locals crowd at the stalls and eat the snail broth from small bowls provided by the vendor. If you still feel like having a warm bowl of comfort, head over to the restaurants offering harira - a thick tomato-based soup, which can include chickpeas, lentils, noodles and possibly a little meat. Traditionally, it is served with hard-boiled eggs eaten on the side with salt and cumin.


Moroccan mint tea is not simply a drink - it is a cultural marker in itself, and the ritual of tea-drinking involves several important points. A traditional tea-drinking set consists of a tray, several small glasses, a shiny teapot with a curved spout for easy pouring, and a special cover for the pot to keep the tea warm. The first cup of tea is never drunk - Moroccans pour it back into the teapot to mix and oxidize the drink, bringing out its flavor - sometimes more than once. Afterwards, the tea is poured from high up to add oxygen bubbles to each glass. Typically, tea is very sweet (for western standards), and if it has been prepared without sugar, a Moroccan can add one to two tablespoons to their glass - or alternatively, several sugar cubes. If you'd like your tea slightly sweet, you have to specially ask for it, or request sugar on the side. To go with tea, Moroccans have invented an immense variety of tempting cookies made with almond paste, olive oil, ground nuts, honey or sesame seeds.

- Zhana Sandeva

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