This post is dedicated to all the things I ate on the street in Morocco, that perhaps most travel guides will advise you not to. But I say go for it. Street food and food carts/trolleys/bicycles are where you’ll find some of the best and most authentic food. And really learn what about the locals are eating. Moroccans are fairly picky about where they snack, and I was lucky to always have one with me. So here goes…
Cactus lined the roadside for miles driving in to Fez. And nearly every corner we turn in the medina has a someone with a wooden trolley selling their yellowy-green prickly fruits. My guide, Halid, tells me they’re Barbary figs or cactus fruit. A man – wearing some thick rubber gloves to protect him from the spikes – skins one fresh for me.
It tastes a bit like a kiwi fruit and a melon, sweet and refreshing. If the fruit was more orange in colour, it tasted more like paw paw. I can see why people are stopping for one mid-shop, a brief respite from the relentless midday heat. It’s also a natural alternative to Gastrostop (note to self after day of eating street food).
Halid is also taking me for a BBQ lunch. He keeps saying we’re going to a ‘communal’ place, which I think means take-away joint. It’s a little tiled hole-in-the-wall stall in the Fez medina. A fluro lit cabinet is stacked with raw meat kebabs out the front and the grill is smoking inside.
We’re having ‘brochette’. Kebabs rubbed with salt and spices, grilled on a skewer and served in a ‘khoobz’ bread pocket, with capsicum sauce, chilli and cumin powder. I have the chicken and kefta (spiced meatballs made with ground lamb or beef). But there’s also the intensely flavoured mixed kebab of heart, liver and kidney.
For most meals the bread is used instead of cutlery – break the bread and use it to pick up the meat. I’m generous with the chilli and cumin powder and it’s so tasty. The meat juices have soaked the inside of the bread, but the outside is still crunchy. Who needs cutlery.
Another take away joint – this time, fish ‘n’ chips in Marrakech.
My guide, Youseff, is a dream. Every so often we’ll be walking along the street and he’ll stop, mid sentence, and say ‘try this…’. And this time it’s sardines – deep fried, served with a pickled green chilli and bread. How can I tell him I’m not a big sardine-off-the-street eater? I don’t. And tuck in to this hoping to see tomorrow. I should have at least asked for a side of chips.
It’s delicious. The sardines are fleshy and juicy in a crisp, light and crunchy batter. I like a good bit of chilli, so I tear off a decent sized chunk with my bread (the lack of cutlery made it hard to produce anything smaller). It’s hot. Outrageously hot… nothing could quench the fire in my mouth, for a good hour.
Oh. I did wash my hands, after lunch.
After lunch we pass a man selling ‘saikok’ on the back of his bicycle. Saikok is a Moroccan country style soup that’s made with ‘iben’, fermented milk (like buttermilk) and cracked wheat, barley or cous cous. There’s nothing else in it and it’s best eaten first thing in the morning to aid digestion.
I like it… tart, cool and refreshing. After fish, I’m sure this is a definite no-no in the guide books – fermented dairy from the back of a bicycle, using recycled cutlery and bowls that are just rinsed in a bucket of water after each persons use. Bottoms up!
Sandwich carts are everywhere in Morocco, but I notice a difference in the bread as I head further south. In Marrakesh the rolls are denser and darker because it’s made from barley. This man here is selling a sandwich with egg, cream cheese. And in that sauce bottle is a mixture or nuts, honey and Argan oil that taste’s similar to a peanut sauce.
Doughtnuts may be doughnuts the world over, but I’ve been wanting to try these – ‘sfenj’. Moroccan doughnuts or fritters. Not suprising, the queues for these are always the longest with people wanting the best ones, fished freshly from the deep fryer.
Made with a yeast dough and rolled by hand in to shape, then deep fried… Mmmm doughnuts.
They can be eaten plain or dusted with powdered sugar. I ate mine plain, straight out the deep fryer and for all the fatty doughnutess of the previous pictures, it was actually really light and airy. The hot oil was burning my fingers slightly, but it just meant I had to eat it quicker.
And to wash it all down, an avocado milkshake. Avocado, milk and of course a little bit of sugar. A cool treat in the hot afternoon.
If the Moroccan’s aren’t talking, they’re snacking. Talking and snacking. So snacks are in abundance on the streets – nuts, chips, popcorn, you name it.
But, this man is selling snails on the coast in Essaouira. Cooked and served in some kind of salty bitter watery sauce. And I’m sorry to say I didn’t give them a go. Snails aren’t on the top of my favourite foods list at the best of times and the aforementioned description that was given to me, really didn’t do them any favours.
Something more appealing for me to snack on in Essaouria – I won’t say because I was hungry, I think I’ve actually forgotten what being hungry feels like. But because I liked the look of them and the little old lady selling them for 20 cents. Moroccan potato scallops we’ll call them. Flavoured with some fresh herbs, turmeric and cumin.
If there’s one thing the Moroccan’s love most – it’s sugar. There’s sugar in almost everything – even cous cous. But the sickliest sweet treat of all, is ‘shebakia’. Sesame pastry that’s deep fried and saturated in honey. There are queues around the block for these at least a mile long at the end of Ramandan, with all the calorie-starved in need of a serious glucose hit.
It’s got some sugary weight to it as I attempt to take a bite… Well a bite and a half. That’s honestly all I could manage without feeling sick.