From our experience, Moroccans are incredibly hospitable. Without hesitation, they offer you mint tea, welcome you into their homes, and treat you like they would treat a close friend or family member. We were overwhelmed by the Moroccan hospitality. This hospitality extends into the meal setting as well, so we found ourselves enjoying (and learning about!) an array of Moroccan foods, thanks to the kind hospitality of our guides and hosts.
Due to Morocco’s temperate climate and varied landscape, a wide range of crops can be grown throughout the year. In fact, some guesthouses and hotels have their own organic gardens. This arrangement is always a plus, allowing guests to enjoy fresh, in-season produce at every meal. In Ourika, our hotel had an impressive vegetable garden bearing eggplants, chilis, asparagus, and beets along with basil, mint, cilantro, and dill. The backdrop of the Ourika Valley was pretty impressive, too!
In Marrakech, our hotel whipped together this simple afternoon snack of fresh pomegranate and rose water.
Alternatively, within the old city walls of most major cities, you’ll find the medina where you can purchase everything from fruits and veggies to dried fruit, carob, coffee, and olives.
As the majority of Moroccans (99%) are Muslim, pork is not readily available nor is it commonly consumed; however, most other types of meat are fair game and widely consumed. Our local guide, Rachid, explained that chicken, beef or lamb are consumed on a daily basis. In many households, it’s not uncommon for meat to be served with every meal.
That said, one might expect that traveling as a vegan in Morocco would be challenging, but we actually discovered that we had no trouble at all. We started most meals with the traditional selection of cooked Moroccan salads. These salads varied from place to place, but some of the more commons salads included roasted pumpkin, roasted zucchini, olives, sweet pepper and tomato, dehydrated carrots and raisins, and mashed roasted eggplant. These salads are commonly served with a circular flat bread called khübz.
While we often enjoyed a modified version of the same vegetarian tagine for numerous meals, the great thing about a tagine is that every kitchen prepares it a little differently depending on the seasonal produce and the chosen spices of the kitchen. Keep an eye out for my next post dedicated to the Moroccan tagine.
As for seasoning, Moroccan cuisine isn’t necessarily spicy, but it relies heavily on a wide range of herbs and spices to enhance the flavors and fragrances of the dishes. Some of the more common spices include saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, ginger and paprika. It’s hard not to miss the beautifully and impressively presented pyramids of spices throughout the medinas.
I especially enjoyed ending my meals with fresh mint tea. It wasn’t until our second week in Morocco that I learned that Moroccan mint tea is actually a combination of fresh mint leaves and Chinese gunpowder tea. The traditional preparation of mint tea includes a hefty amount of white sugar, but it’s quite common today in Morocco to order tea without sugar. Just be sure to ask, as the default will very likely contain sugar.
Making and serving mint tea is an art form. Traditional Moroccan tea pots have long spouts that aerate the tea as it’s poured. Our guide, Rachid, demonstrates the proper technique below.
When I look back at the many meals we enjoyed in Morocco, I was most impressed with the careful balance of fresh herbs and spices that provided an impressive, yet subtle backdrop through which to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. Moroccan food had a unique richness of flavor without tasting overly spicy or heavy.
For more on our food adventures in Morocco, check out my post on the Moroccan tagine.