Moroccan cuisine is a glorious collision of subtle spices and rich flavours. The dining table sees native Berber traditions infused with culinary influences from Andalusia, Arabia and France. There’s often an element of intrigue, or even surprise, in Moroccan dishes, from rabbit tagine topped with candied lemon and green olives, to pigeon-stuffed pastries dusted with cinnamon. Here are the top five Moroccan dishes you must try in Marrakech – and the best places to find them.
1. B’stilla, or Pastilla
B’stilla (or pastilla) is a traditional Moroccan dish that can be traced back to Fez. The special pie is made from paper-thin layers of pastry, stuffed with a succulent stuffing of pigeon meat, almond and eggs, and spiced with saffron and coriander. A tantalising mix of sweet and savoury, the flaky treat is dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. Other more modern fillings include chicken and seafood. The best place to pick up these pastries in Marrakech is from one of the street stalls lining Jemaa el Fna square. If you’d prefer to eat in a restaurant, you can’t go wrong with Al Fassia, a locals’ favourite run exclusively by women.
You can’t visit Marrakech without sampling one of its most popular signature Moroccan dishes: tagine. This flavourful stew of meat and fruit bubbles away in a clay pot (a ‘tagine’) in almost every restaurant across the city, and is served with hunks of warm flatbread. Fnaque Berbère dishes up a great tagine; the café straddles the corner of Souk Laksour and moonlights as a bookshop – head up the stairs to find the hidden dining space. Other good options include La Table du Riad by Riad 72 for the unusual lemon-olive hybrid we mentioned above, and Dar Cherifa, a literary café that transforms into a restaurant after dark – the Berber tagine is ideal for vegetarians.
Méchoui is another one of those classic Moroccan dishes you must try while in Marrakech. Join the lunchtime crowds queuing at Chez Lamine in the so-called ‘Méchoui Alley’ for the best version of a smoke-roasted leg of lamb. Be warned though, this narrow arm of Souk Ablouh is not one for the fainthearted, with butchers working right in front of you. For the squeamish, opt instead for Al Fassia; it’s been said diners ring up to order in advance – it’s that good.
During Ramadan, Muslims break their fast at sunset every day with a bowl of harira – one of the most comforting Moroccan dishes. This thick soup is a rich blend of lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas and lamb, finished with a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of chopped coriander. Chebakia, a sticky sweet pretzel, is used to mop up the dregs. Head to Jemaa el Fna to join the queue at Chez Chegrouni, a no-bookings, no-frills haunt, where you scribble your order on a napkin – sometimes the simple things are the finest. If you can’t get a seat, try Chez Hassan in Souk Talaa, a tiny grill where the famous soup is as tasty as the meat skewers.
As delicious as it is famous, couscous (or ‘seksu’) is a fine wheat pasta traditionally rolled by hand and steamed in a couscoussièr (pot). Typically, a pyramid of couscous is perched atop a meat and vegetable stew, topped with vegetables, and served with the broth on the side. A sweet raisin preserve or bowl of buttermilk (the Berber way) usually garnishes the dish. It is often prepared using simple leftovers and enjoyed as a sharing platter by Moroccan families on Fridays. Try it at Naima, a wonderfully simple place with seats arranged around a communal dish, or Al Baraka, a palm-strewn restaurant illuminated by lanterns.
Hungry yet? You can recover from your food coma in one of our beautiful holiday homes in Marrakech! Our free concierge service is always happy to fulfil your needs and give you further help with planning your holiday.