One of the things we enjoy most during travels – and at home as well – is food from all over the world. The Selim family is very lucky to have Ashique as our Chef! One of these days I have to write a post about all the delicious Bengali and Indian food, divine cakes and goodies he has made during our time in England. Food is also one of the reasons (amongst many others!) that Morocco was always a bucket list destination.
During our 10 year wedding anniversary trip to Morocco last week, we took our first tour ever with Marrakech Food Tours , run by a husband and wife team who have made it their mission to bring the real food of Marrakech to those visiting the red city.
I had come across Amanda and Youssef while researching travels in Morocco and I found their other website MarocMama to be a wealth of local knowledge and useful information on everything Morocco! What really stood out in that site is their love for good food, so we thought we can’t go too wrong in taking our first tour with them!
The Tour lasts little over 3 hours and Amanda had been in touch before about dietary requirements. She noted down that I was a vegetarian (I do eat fish on rare occasions), whether we had any allergies and any other food preferences. They provide 2 tours a day at 1pm and then again at 6pm. We opted for the day option and met them both at a designated spot at Djemaa El Fna.
After a brief introduction, we started making our way through the square and onwards to the Souks where Youssef, who was born and raised in Marrakech, started to tell us about different food artisans and culture. Our first food stop was the infamous Marrakechi tradition – Tangia. The word means both an urn-shaped Terra Cotta cooking vessel, as well as the name of the lamb stew slow cooked in the pot. We got to see how this meal is cooked in the traditional ovens where it has been made for hundreds of years.
After this lovely meal, we set off for our next stop, which was stalls of different kinds of tea and variety of olives. One of the things that was so great about doing such a tour was the fact that no one bothered you or tried to sell you anything even while you were touching and looking at all the different food items!
I love olives and it was wonderful to try the different kinds, each had its own distinct taste and texture. We learned about pickled lemons and how they make it and add it as flavouring to many of their dishes.
Our next stop was this tiny local food stall, we would never have found it on our own and you could see only locals having food from there. I was too polite to take a picture of this table of men eating fried fish (sardines?) and picking out the bones with their hands, very similar to how we have it in Bangladesh. I did eat fish at this place and it was possibly my most favourite item of the day. The name of the dish is ‘hout mquari’ and the ingredients are fish ‘meatballs’, raw onions, fresh tomato sauce, harissa and smen (Moroccan aged butter). It was the BEST thing EVER!
The next stop was very cool – We went inside this bakery where they make Khobz (Moroccan bread) in big stone ovens. Locals make their own dough at home, then carry it down to the bakery each morning, and in some cases, several times a day. Traditionally it was only here that you could get your bread made. Nowadays, besides supplying to households, the bakeries also supply bread to the hotels and supermarkets.
We walked inside through this ordinary doorway which you would never imagine leads to a bakery! Inside there was a man in front of a huge oven, and he was putting the dough in and out with a large paddle.
After the bakery visit, we went to this lovely cafe, highly recommend on Trip Advisor for great home cooked meals. We were the only ones at this place run by two women. I had the best vegetarian tagine as the main course and this was served in large bowl and shared between people. We learned from Amanda that the only etiquette for group eating is you eat from your slice of the pie in the plate. We had a tasty sweet pepper mash with bread before the tagine. Lots of mint tea to go with it all, it was a lovely meal indeed. Would highly recommend for vegetarians!
We were already so stuffed by this point, but there was more to come! First we stopped at another doorway in one of the narrow alleyways of the Medina. It turned out to be a recycling centre where this guy collects all the rubbish from the Medina – leather, fabric, rubber, food waste and just general garbage – and burns them in this huge oven, which then heats up the waters of the local hammam. The ashes are used to cook Tangia and the wastewater from the hamam is used to irrigate the fields just outside Marrakech! Great way to reuse and recycle all this waste, it was fascinating learning about the history from Amanda and Yousef, such efficiency 🙂
Our final stop was a local sweet shop where we tried different sweets and biscuits and the infamous avocado and almond smoothie, also known for its Viagra effects (!) Ashique had that, said it was really good. I had orange and mango juice but found it a bit too pulpy. The biscuits were nice but nothing out of the ordinary. It was actually great just sitting here, sipping our drinks and watching people going about their daily business.
Amanda and Youssef were very friendly and easy to talk to about everything you might want to know about Morocco – culture, food and traditions. It was interesting for us as they had recently moved from USA to Morocco with their two boys who are nearly the same age as our two. As we are planning to do the same – move from England to Bangladesh (with a transit of 1 year in New Zealand) it was great hearing about the trials and tribulations, the joys and challenges of raising multi cultural semi nomadic bilingual children who share two cultures that are so different! American-Moroccan in their case, Yorkshire-Bengali in ours 🙂
I digress here…back to the Tour – It costs $60 each with children under 2 free. This includes all the food and drinks and any tips required. We were given a media rate discount but all opinions are own. This is the first food tour we have ever taken so I have nothing really to compare it to…but I can say with all honesty, that if you are a food junkie like we are, love trying out authentic cuisine at local shops and restaurants, whilst at the same time learning about food history and artisans, then you would LOVE this tour.
We are quite adventurous with food in general and are happy to try street food from most places. Thanks to having street food in Bangladesh, our stomachs can really take a lot, and the kids are great with trying new things as well. Besides the delicious food we encountered on this tour, we had few other amazing dishes I had to share while writing about food in Marrakech!
We were in food paradise these four days and definitely in a food coma after our 3 hours food galore with Marrakech Food Tours 🙂 You can find out recipes for most of the food described here on Marocmama