Moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse, thanks to Morocco's interaction with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine has been subject to Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, and Arab influences. The cooks in the royal kitchens of Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tetouan refined it over the centuries and created the basis for what is known as Moroccan cuisine today.
Ingredients Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables and even some tropical ones. Common meats include mutton and lamb, beef, chicken, camel, rabbit and seafood, which serve as a base for the cuisine. Characteristic flavorings include lemon pickle, cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil and dried fruits. It is also known for being far more heavily spiced than Middle Eastern cuisine.
Spices and other flavorings Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. Although 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 (turmeric), skinjbir (ginger), libzar (pepper),tahmira (paprika), anise seed, sesame seeds, qesbour (coriander), and zaafran beldi (saffron). Common herbs include mint and 'maadnous'(parsley.)
Structure of meals The midday meal is the main meal, except during the holy month of Ramadan. A typical meal begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine. Bread is eaten with every meal. Often, for a formal meal, a lamb or chicken dish is next, followed by couscous topped with meat and vegetables. A cup of sweet mint tea usually ends the meal. Moroccans usually eat with their hands and use bread as a utensil. The consumption of pork and alcohol are considered Haraam, and are prohibited per Muslim dietary restrictions.
The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, the old national delicacy. Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco. Lamb is also consumed. North African sheep breeds store most fat in their tails, which means that Moroccan lamb does not have the pungent flavour that Western lamb and mutton have. Poultry is also very common, and the use of seafood is increasing in Moroccan food. Among the most famous Moroccan dishes areCouscous, Pastilla (also spelled Bsteeya or Bestilla), Tajine, Tanjia and Harira. Although the latter is a soup, it is considered as a dish in itself and is served as such or with dates especially during the month of Ramadan.
Salads Salads include both raw and cooked ingredients, served either hot or cold. Cold salads include zaalouk, an eggplantand tomato mixture, and taktouka (a mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and spices).
Desserts Usually, seasonal fruits rather than cooked desserts are served at the close of a meal. A common dessert is kaab el ghzal ("gazelle's horns"), a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar. Another is " Halwa shebakia ", pretzel-shaped dough deep-fried, dipped into a hot pot of honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Halwa Shebakia are cookies eaten during the month of Ramadan. Coconut fudge cakes, 'Zucre Coco', are popular also.
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 is often a daily tradition. The pouring technique is as crucial as the quality of the tea itself. Moroccan tea pots have long, curved pouring spouts and this allows the tea to be poured evenly into tiny glasses from a height. For the best 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. Finally, the tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps.
Snacks and fast food Selling fast food in the street has long been a tradition, and the best example isDjemaa el Fna square in Marrakech. Starting in the 1980s, new snack restaurants started serving "Bocadillo" (a Spanish word for a sandwich, widely used in Morocco). Though the composition of a bocadillo varies by region, it is usually a baguette filled with salad and a choice of meats, fish (usually tuna), or omelette.
In the late 1990s, several multinational fast-food franchises opened restaurants in major cities.
Moroccan food abroad Couscous is one of the most popular North African dishes globally. Markets, stores and restaurants in Europe, especially in France and lately the UK feature lamb tajines, bastilla, and couscous.