Moroccan cuisine is influenced by Morocco’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines with slight European and sub-Saharan influences.
Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and even some tropical ones. Common meats include beef, goat, mutton and lamb, chicken and seafood, which serve as a base for the cuisine. Characteristic flavorings include lemon pickle, argan oil, cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil and dried fruits. As in Mediterranean cuisine in general, the staple ingredients include wheat, used for bread and couscous, and olive oil; the third Mediterranean staple, the grape, is eaten as a dessert, though a certain amount of wine is made in the country.
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. Although some spices have been imported to Morocco through the Arabs for thousands of years, many ingredients—like saffron from Talaouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fes—are home-grown, and are being exported internationally. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the famous Moroccan spice mixture ras el hanout.
Common herbs in Moroccan cuisine include mint, parsley, coriander, oregano, peppermint, marjoram, verbena, sage and bay laurel.
A typical lunch meal begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine or Dwaz. Often, for a formal meal, a lamb or chicken dish is next, or couscous topped with meat and vegetables. Moroccans either eat with fork, knife and spoon or with their hands using bread as a utensil depending on the dish served. The consumption of pork and alcohol is uncommon due to religious restrictions.
Moroccan National Dishes
Couscous originated as a Maghrebi dish of small (about 3 millimetres (0.12 in) diameter) steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina that is traditionally served with a stew spooned on top. Pearl millet and sorghum, especially in the Sahel, and other cereals can be cooked in a similar way and the resulting dishes are also sometimes called couscous.
Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Libya, as well as in Israel, due to the large population of Jews of North African origin. In Western supermarkets, it is sometimes sold in instant form with a flavor packet, and may be served as a side or on its own as a main dish.
A tajine or tagine is a Maghrebi dish which is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. It is also called maraq or marqa.
Pastilla is a traditional Moroccan dish of Andalusian origin consumed in countries of the Maghreb. It has also spread to Algeria and Tunisia. Pastilla is said to be “uniquely Moroccan, intricate and grand, fabulously rich and fantastical”.
In the traditional Fassi cuisine, pastilla can also be served as a dessert, in which case, the pastilla is called Jowhara (which means in English jewel) or “Pastilla with milk”. This pastilla is also made of warka and a milky cream put between the sheets. The Jowhara is flavored with orange flower water and decorated with cinnamon and sugar.