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The Rich 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. 

The Berber people are the originators of Moroccan cuisine but external influence expanded their palette.

Additional influences came from the Moors in southern Spain, who brought pastilla, which is now a very popular pie in Morocco. Of lesser influence were the French and the British, who contributed to Moroccan cuisine in more recent times. 

With so much external influence, one may think that Morocco’s food culture and traditions from the Berber people were lost. However, that’s not the case at all. The land of Morocco is rich and fertile, producing various crops including oranges, melons, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, dates, olives, almonds, figs and more. 

As for meat sources, the people of Morocco eat plenty of poultry and lamb, and add their own unique spin on these animal meats with the crops they grow. Also, Morocco is known for its seafood culture, with many of its people eating sardines, mackerel, anchovies and pilchard (the latter of which, unfortunately, is on the decline). 

The Modern Menu & Practices of Marrakech and Morocco 

With so many nations and peoples contributing to Morocco’s culinary palette, it comes as no surprise that the country is renowned for its diverse menu. Many of Morocco’s dishes are known to offer a burst of contrasting flavours and textures, most notably sweet and crunchy. Additionally, there are specific ways the Moroccan people will eat these dishes, elevating ordinary meals into rich sensory experiences. 

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. 

Interesting Facts About Moroccan Cuisine & Food Practices 

  • Moroccans eat their meals at low round tables, often sitting on cushions on the floor 
  • They eschew the use of utensils and eat with their hands, using the thumb and first two fingers of their right hands
  • They typically serve flatbread with every meal 
  • They use pieces of bread to soak up sauces and to carry food to the mouth
  • For religious celebrations, Moroccans enjoy four popular foods (in addition to others) – harira (bean/lamb soup) for Ramadan, bisteeya (pigeon meat wrapped in pastry dough) for Eid al-Fitr, a spit-roasted sheep for Eid el Adha and Mescouta (date cookies) for other celebrations 
  • A typical breakfast Moroccans enjoy is beyssara (dried fava beans stewed with cumin and paprika) and bread
  • Moroccans pour their mint tea by holding the pot high above the glasses, allowing the air to mix with the tea

Experiencing the Best of Moroccan Cuisine at Our Marrakech Restaurant

The beauty of Moroccan cuisine is that every region of the country has its own unique menu offerings. That means you will find different cities and towns will have their own exclusive dishes, while others may offer alternate versions of very popular meals. What’s consistent, however, is that all of these meals unify Morocco, because they remind the locals and visitors of the rich heritage that’s shaped the country. 

Le Trou Au Mur serves as a gateway to all of this diversity since we serve an eclectic mix of the dishes mentioned above. Some of these offerings vary by the day, and of course, our talented chefs add their own touches and twists to make these meals even more savoury. Ultimately, Le Trou Au Mur is your place to taste and see Moroccan culture in a way that you will remember for life! 

Are you eager to experience the culture and tastes of Marrakech and Morocco? Get in touch with us for info about our menu and booking options.