The taste of Morocco with Marrakech Food Tours

When you think of Morocco, and it’s food; what comes to mind are tagines, couscous and freshly brewed mint tea, and having tasted Moroccan food outside of Morocco, I was excited to get there, and eat like the locals did.

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However, after a few days in the city, I was left feeling disappointed with what I found in many of the restaurants.

The tangines tasted bland, and lacked flavour and the variety of food felt very much catered toward the tourist, with many of the city centre eateries serving western foods, such as burgers and pizza.

“Where do the locals eat?” I questioned.

It was then that I decided to embark on a food tour with Marrakech Food Tours, which is a company that was set up by blogger Maroc Mama (Amanda) and her husband Youssef some years ago.

Having encountered the same frustrations with the food in local restaurants, Amanda decided to set up Marrakech Food Tours, to enable visitors to taste the real Morocco, with flavours and foods that you would find in the kitchen of your Moroccan grandmas (if you had one).

For many months, Amanda and her husband Youssef surveyed the city; looking for the best places to eat, with the most local and authentic foods. They established good relationships with the stall and restaurant owners, and as such, have now enabled visitors to eat like the locals do.

Meeting point of the tour 

The tour runs once per, and the concept is simple; show up at the meeting point of the Post Office in Jemma el Fna (the main square), wear some comfortable shoes, and come hungry.

I would also add to the list, to have a strong stomach, and be prepared to be adventurous.

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When booking your tour, do ensure that you make it known any food allergies you may have, and they will try their best to accommodate this. You can do this via email, or by contacting the team via their Facebook page.

Foods served up on the Marrakech Food Tour 

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After meeting Youssef, my partner and I, along with another couple and their two adorable young children, set off on foot to our first stop, where we would see the process of one of the foods we would be eating.

We were led through the main square, and down one of Marrakech’ little alleyways, where we stopped at a very unassuming place. A restaurant, with a stall outside, lined with Tangia pots. It all seemed pretty normal, until my eyes panned onto the Giant head of a sheep, spiked up and on display.

Sheep’s head, and Sheep is something Moroccans would eat on a regular basis. I wasn’t so sure myself.

Prior to eating, we were taken around to a back room, and shown the underground oven, which essentially was a large hole in the ground. It was huge though, and Yousseff explained that it had the capacity for cooking 30-40 Sheep at one time.

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Youssef also explained that in order to cook one whole Sheep, it only required 2 and a half hours in the oven.

Sheep Head 

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After learning about the cooking process, we took our seats upstairs, to try the first of many of the foods.

As the Sheep Head was taken out and presented to us in the table, all I could see was its eyes looking at me, so couldn’t bring myself to eat it. However, I was told that it tasted very tender, and quite like Duck.

No one was brave enough to eat the eyeball of the Sheep.

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Tangia 

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In additon to the Sheep, we were also served some Lamb Tangia, which was delicious. The meat in this dish is slowly cooked for 6 hours, and contains only 5 ingredients: Cumin, Saffron, Garlic, Olive oil, and Preserved Lemon. It is said to be the dish most men in Marrakech cook, as it is easy and does not require a lot of preparation. The dish was served with bread, and washed down with some Mint Tea.

The Tangia can also be cooked for any other white meat, i.e. chicken, or pork. So I feel this may be a dish I will recreate at home.

Olives 

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Next was on to one of the many Olive stands you will find in the city, which are all stacked up next to each other.

We got to try most of them, varying from Garlic and herb stuffed Olives, to plain black Olives and spicy chilli flavoured. They were delicious.

Olives are something I have started to use more in salads and in foods; I just wish I could have brought a mountain on them home.

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Pancakes

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Next, we got to sample some Paratha or Msemmen (Moroccan Pancakes) which can be sweet or savoury. Ours were filled with various spices and onions and were delicious. It took no time at all for the lady cooking to make a batch for us; she made it look so simple. We ate these en route to our next stop.

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Sardine Sandwich 

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Prior to the tour, I made Youssef aware that I was not a lover of seafood or fish. Despite this, he convinced me that I should try some of the Sardine sandwich. I was impressed with it, as it looked just like a meat patty (burger), and didn’t smell too fishy. So I took a small bite, and instantly tasted some form of fish, so went no further.

The sandwiches were served in bread, with onions, olives and various spices. Both of the children in our group loved them, and again put me to shame.

Snails (Escargot) 

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Despite my many trips to France, I have never got round to trying Frogs Legs, or Snails. That changed on this tour (for the Snails at least).

Around a small metal cart, stood a few locals, sipping warm liquid out of small bowls, then every now and again, you’d watch as they took at cocktail stick (toothpick), and poked out this long, black, slimy looking thing, then devourer it quickly.

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Despite having been on a very wild food festival in New Zealand, (which involved some alcohol to make it easier) I still had no intention of trying one. However, with some peer pressure, and being told that it tasted just like mushroom, I did it.

And it did in fact taste (a little) like mushroom. 1 was my limit however.

Couscous, vegetables and salad 

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The food tour was almost at an end, and we were taken to a small place at the back of the Souks, to be served up a huge offering of the most delicious couscous I have tasted, along with more bread, Moroccan salad, and even sweeter, sweet Mint Tea. It was incredible, with the most stunning of flavours which complimented each other nicely.

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Cookies and Smoothies 

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Through the markets we went to our final stop (picking up some yummy cactus fruit on the way). The happy ending: deserts and smoothies.

All around Marrakech, you’ll see a lot of juice carts, and smoothie stops. Grab one if you can, as they’re delicious. The speciality of this particular stop was Avocado, Almonds, and Milk, or you could opt for any option you wanted, including mixed fruit and juice.

The smoothies were served up with a plateful of sweet cookies. The local and most famous of all the cookies is the Kaab el Ghazal, which is a present shaped cookie, filled with almond paste, orange and cinnamon – I could have eaten 10 of those.

At the end of the tour, we were walked back to the Jemma el Fna, where we could make our way back to our respective hotels.

I had a wonderful time, filling my belly full of weird and wonderful foods, although I was not as adventurous as I had hoped, it opened my eyes to the real food of Marrakech.

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If you are planning on visiting the city, definitely jump on board with this tour. You’ll learn so much about the way the food is prepared, why Moroccans eat what they eat, and actually eating what they eat too.

To make a booking contact the team via their website.

Note: Places are limited per tour, and do not run during Ramadan. Busy periods are around Christmas/New Year and March/April, so booking in advance is advisable.

 

All photos for this article, were captured by Chris Johnson Photography (@chrisjphotography)

 

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