Moroccan cuisine is influenced by Morocco‘s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine is usually a mix of Amazigh, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines, with slight European (French and Spanish) and sub-Saharan influences.
History & Culture of Moroccan Cuisine
The history of Moroccan cuisine is as sophisticated and diverse as its aromas and flavours. The foods which Marrakech (and Morocco) are renowned for are the culmination of centuries of trade and cultural amalgamation.
Of course, the history associated with Moroccan cuisine has also shaped the way its people eat their favourite meals, along with when and why they eat what they do. Here’s a more detailed look at its origins.
The Seeds of Moroccan Cuisine
The Moroccan food menu that the world is accustomed to began with the Berbers who were once the dominant ethnic group in the region. In fact, the Berbers inhabited the region over 2,000 years ago. Their food staples consisted of local ingredients including olives, figs, and dates to prepare lamb and poultry stews – ingredients that are still heavily used today.
Of course, the Berbers would soon be accompanied by other groups of people. Traders and conquerors from surrounding peoples including the Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and most prominently, Arabians, introduced new recipes and ingredients.
In fact, in the 7th century, the Arabs brought new food choices with them including new types of bread and other grain-based foods. They also introduced new spices such as cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin and caraway. In addition to these spices, the Arabs introduced the indigenous people of Morroco to sweet-and-sour cooking, which the Arabs had learned from the Persians.
Jewish influence also comprises some of the lineages of Morrocan cuisine. During the 7th and 8th centuries, Jewish people began to migrate to North Africa, being granted safe residence despite the rise of Islamization. The Jewish people introduced the Moroccan people to various pickling and preservation techniques for fruits and vegetables.
The lost empire Ghanian empire of Ouagadougou, which ruled what now consists of modern-day Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gambia and most of Mali, also contributed to Moroccan culture. Ouagadougou introduced Sufism – a form of Islamic mysticism – and their rituals often included culinary practices such as the provision of free food. This includes the announcement of “Bismillah”(which means “in the name of Allah”) before the kneading of the dough to make bread.
Popular Moroccan Food & Beverage Options
- Chicken Tajine w/ Almonds and Prunes – A popular dish served throughout Marrakech and all over Morocco, that’s sweet and tangy.
- Lamb Tajine w/Quince and Candied Walnuts – A sweet and zesty lamb dish that also packs a crunch due to the addition of walnuts.
- Kefta w/Baked Egg – A beef dish (resembling meatballs) served with eggs and various spices in a sauce (tomato is popular but it can vary).
- Charmoula Sardines – A plate of sardines filled with finely chopped and lightly spiced veggies.
- Pastilla – Although there are a variety of styles, pastilla generally takes the form of a meat pie consisting of chicken, cinnamon, sugar, egg and ground almonds.
- Moroccan Mint Tea – Also known as “Moroccan Whiskey”, Moroccan mint tea is the country’s most popular drink. It is a sweet beverage that the Moroccan people typically enjoy with various meals.
- Coffee – Moroccans enjoy a variety of blends and styles ranging from espresso to cappuccinos.