A gastronomic guide for a Morocco tour
Visions of the film "Casablanca" with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman aside, Morocco boasts a culture like no other in the world. The entire country is covered with stunning landscapes that put to rest the misconception that Morocco is just another desert-filled African nation. Perhaps just as diverse as its wilderness is the country's gastronomic scene, which bridges cuisines from numerous bordering nations and immigrant populations.
Jeff Koehler, a food writer who spent a number of years exploring Morocco's unique culinary traditions, knows exactly where to find the best food in the country.
"Berber cuisine is very rural and influenced by whatever is available so you get lots of barley couscous and vegetarian dishes in the villages, whereas in cities like Fez, you get much more complex combinations of ingredients," he wrote in "Morocco."
Curious about how to eat during a tour of Morocco? Here are a few basic dishes that you should know a thing or two about:
Many Moroccan dishes are flavored with chermoula, which is a rich marinade made with a nearly a dozen types of herbs and spices. Anything from fried fish to viscous stews have chermoula in it, and whether or not you mean to order it in a restaurant, many of your dishes will likely be made with chermoula as a base.
Morocco's Mediterranean coast serves up a different kind of b'stilla, or filo pastry stuffed with sweets or savory meats. Typically, seaside towns stuff these flaky delights with seafood, while inland villages fill it with pigeon. Moroccan cooks prepare the insides at least a day in advance to make sure all of the meat absorbs the rich marinades during a slow-cooking process. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth treat that will keep you begging for more.
While it's not an actual dish, a couscoussier is as important to the Moroccan kitchen as a rice cooker is in Japan. This double-chambered steamer's sole purpose is to make the perfect batch of couscous time and time again, and because of its genius design, cooks can sizzle up more food in the lower pot while the couscous is finishing. That way, the starch absorbs the flavors of whatever is frying beneath.
The best advice for anyone on a Morocco tour? Never say no to a dish!