Did you know that the famous line "Play it again, Sam" was never actually spoken in the movie Casablanca? If your only familiarity with Morocco comes from watching the classic Bogart flick, you're in for a treat! Moroccan food is flavorful, reasonably healthy, and unforgettably delicious.
Reading a Moroccan menu can be somewhat intimidating to anyone who's new to the cuisine. That's why we've pulled together some helpful information for getting the most enjoyment from a traditional Moroccan meal!
A Primer on Traditional Moroccan Menu Items
Before you sit down to enjoy couscous, tagine, and kefta, it's a good idea to learn about the spices, flavors, and ingredients that are traditionally used in this type of cuisine.
Consider the Couscous
Just as rice is de rigeur in Asian cooking, so couscous is a staple of Moroccan households and Moroccan menus alike. Made from wheat semolina, couscous looks and acts like a grain, but is, in fact, a form of pasta.
You will usually find it steamed and served as a base for chicken, beef, lamb, and vegetables. Often, a couscous dish is a communal dish.
Try a Tagine
Tagine is another staple of Moroccan cuisine. It's a slow-cooked stew that can take many forms. In traditional Moroccan restaurants, tagine is made in a distinctive, conical clay cooking pot (also called a tagine).
The Spices That Make Moroccan Food Sing
Moroccan food is richly spiced --which does not necessarily mean that it's spicy, just flavorful. Some of the most commonly used spices include ginger, turmeric, saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and white pepper.
Ras El Hanout is a spice blend that many Moroccan cooks consider all-purpose. It generally contains a combination of cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
For Heat, There's Harissa
Like your food to pack a little heat? Then you'll need to know about harissa, a chili paste that's common to several North African countries. Harissa contains hot peppers, garlic, roasted red peppers, and other savory components.
Like any hot sauce, harissa can vary widely regarding how spicy it is. Do your taste buds lean to the lower end of the Scoville scale? Start out with a tiny amount and increase your harissa intake accordingly.
Kefta Keeps It Interesting
Another dish you're likely to find on a Moroccan menu is kefta. Ground meat (either beef, lamb, or a combination) is mixed with herbs and spices. The kefta can be shaped into balls --think Morocco's answer to the meatball --or into torpedo shapes.
Kefta is often grilled, but can also be pan-fried and incorporated into a tagine dish.
Traditional Moroccan Drinks
Mint tea is standard on a Moroccan menu. However, you might be surprised by the quality of Moroccan wine and beer. The majority of Morocco's residents are Muslim, which means that they don't consume alcohol --but that just means more for the rest of us!
We hope you've enjoyed this brief primer on Moroccan foods. By now, you're probably feeling hungry, huh?
Want to experience all that Moroccan menus have to offer? Can't decide between all the delicious offerings? Check out the feasts we serve, and try a little bit of everything!