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Moroccan Culture

Food & Drink

Estimated to be one of the most refined, Moroccan cuisine varies from one region to another. The most popular dishes are Tagine, Couscous and Pastilla. Food is usually well balanced, moderately and carefully spiced.

In Morocco, meal times are a social event. The midday meal is the main meal, with the exception of the holy month of Ramadan. The typical formal meal begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine. Bread is eaten with every meal. Often a lamb or chicken dish is next, followed by couscous topped with meats and vegetables. A cup of sweet mint tea is commonly used to end the meal. It is common for Moroccans to eat using the fingers of their hand and use bread as a "utensil". Before the meal, Moroccans give thanks to God by saying "Bismillah" and say "Al Hamdu Lillah" meaning "Thank God" at the end of the meal.

Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. While spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez, are home-grown. Common spices include karfa (cinnamon), kamoun (cumin), kharkoum (tumeric), skingbir (ginger), libzar (pepper), tahmira (paprika), anis seed, sesame seed, kasbour (coriander), maadnous (parsley), zaafrane beldi (saffron) and mint.

Description of the main dishes:

Harira is the famous Moroccan soup well spiced and rich in starchy foods, herbs and aromats, plus meat. This is particularly eaten during the month of Ramadan.
Mechoui is lamb roasted in a special natural oven and served in one piece. It is eaten with salt and cumin.
Couscous is also the Moroccan national dish cooked mainly on Fridays. A veritable mountain of white granular semolina hides within carrots, turnips, courgettes and various vegetables with pieces of mutton or chicken.
Pastilla
is a sweet dish, the most calorific part of the Moroccan menu consisting of wafer-thin layers of flaky feather-light pastry filled with cream.
Tagine is specially cooked meat with vegetables in a spiced sauce.

Sweets are not necessarily served at the end of a Moroccan meal. A common dessert is kaab el ghzal ("gazelle's horns"), which is a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar. Another dessert is honey cakes, which is essentially pretzel-shaped pieces of dough, deep-fried and dipped into a hot pot of honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Halwa Shebakia are cookies eaten during the month of Ramadan. Zucre Coco are coconut fudge cakes.

The most popular drink is green tea with mint. Traditionally, making good mint tea in Morocco is considered an art form and the drinking of it with friends and family members is one of the important rituals of the day. The technique of pouring the tea is as crucial as the quality of the tea. The tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps. Moroccan tea pots have long curved pouring spouts and this allow the tea to be poured even into tiny glasses from a height. To acquire the optimum taste, glasses are filled in two stages. The Moroccans traditionally like tea with bubbles, so while pouring they hold the teapot high above the glasses.

Selling fast food in the street has long been a general tradition and the best example is Djemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech. In the 1980s, new snack restaurants started serving "Bocadillo" (which is a Spanish word for a sandwich). The bocadillo is a baguette filled with salad and a choice between meats or simply a Tortilla.

During the 1990s, a new trend started to emerge. New dairy products shops (Mahlaba) began to open up throughout the cities in Morocco. These mahlabas generally offer all types of dairy products, juices and breakfasts, as well as bocadillos, and are competing with the former established snack restaurants.

The late 1990s also experienced the opening of franchisees of multinational fast food chains, especially in the main cities.

 

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