The old medina in Marrakesh is simply brimming with action. It’s densely packed alleyways are crawling with persistent vendors, impatient pedestrians and aggressive motorcylists, but beneath all that lies something special. Away from the Jemaa el-Fnaa and amongst the madness lies a number of inconspicuous eateries boasting some of the best street food Morocco has to offer.
It’s just as easy to get lost in the number of delicious food options as it is the maze of alleyways that weave through the medina, so here’s a short list of must-try Marrakeshian eats that will have you licking your fingers while lining up for seconds.
One of the more obvious choices, the humble tagine is inarguably a Moroccan staple. You can find them absolutely everywhere in Marrakesh and always with a long list of flavour combinations, but what really sets the tagine apart is it’s unique cooking method. The meat, vegetables, herbs and spices are locked under a conical clay lid and left to cook low and slow. The result? A bubbling hot, perfectly cooked dish of tender meat, soft vegetables and fragrant herbs. The mix of spices and juices have a way of creating a shallow pool of thick sauce which is perfect for dunking your tears of fresh bread. The Morrocans use these same tears to scoop up the small chunks of meat and vegetables from their dish, meaning that cuttlery is only ever really supplied to foreigners.
A popular choice is the chicken (poulet) or vegetable (légume) tagine, but the lamb, prune and almond is certainly worth the money if you’re fortunate enough to find it. Expect to pay anywhere between 25-70Dhs, depending on your choice of ingredients and restaurant.
Tip: Avoid the tourist-targeted restaurants of Jemaa el-Fnaa. The best tagines are scattered through the medina and always surrounded by locals, you just have to learn to enjoy the thrill of the search.
Loubia is a type of Moroccan-style slow-cooked beans that’s just as hearty as it is flavoursome. The cannellini beans are stewed in a thick tomato sauce and brought to life with the usual mix of herbs, garlic, paprika, tumeric, cumin and ginger.
Like with almost every meal in Morocco loubia is served with a portion of crusty fresh bread, guaranteeing to satisfy everyone from the dainty vegan to the ravenous carnivore. Expect to pay no more than 5Dhs for a steaming hot bowl.
If there’s one thing the Moroccans know it’s their slow-cooking. If you still need convincing, pick up a plate of tanjia for all the proof you’ll need.
Unique to Marrakesh the tanjia is a clay urn typically filled with meat, preserved lemon, garlic, spices, oil and a touch of water, then left to bubble away on coals for 8-10 hours. The meat is incredibly tender, falling away from the bone with an effortless pull of your fork.
Story has it that the bachelors of Marrakesh travel the souk with their tanjia in hand, collecting their choice of meats, vegetables and spices which are dropped straight in by each vendor. When finished the men take their urns and store them on the same coals that heat the water of the hamams; a type of Moroccan public bath. At the end of the day the men return to collect their perfectly cooked tanjias, taking them back for a hot, hearty meal at home.
With a side of loubia a plate of tanjia will cost you around 15Dhs. There’s a small eatery about an eight minute walk down Derb Dabachi from Jemaa el-Fnaa on the left hand side that’s always full of locals – and for good reason too. Just look for the row of clay urns sitting out front.
The perfect snack on the go, msemen is a type of thin, pancake-like dough that’s combined with additional ingredients and cooked on an oiled up hot plate, similar to the Turkish gözleme.
Vendors are usually up early enough to have a warm, soft stack ready for breakfast, with each usually having their own selection of options to choose from. For me, nothing beats the classic spicey onion, and at only 5dh a piece it’s sensational value.
Now let me be clear: this isn’t just any smoothie. This smoothie has eager Marrakeshians lining up every day like a swarm of insatiable sugar junkies, waiting for their next hit of smooth, creamy sweetness.
A very calm and composed vendor pours a mix of avocado, strawberry, banana and date smoothies on top of one another, creating a heavenly concoction that needs to be tasted to be believed. A mug will cost you a measley 5Dhs, which makes it unbelievably hard to walk away after just one.
There’s smoothie vendors all over Marrakesh but the absolute best in my opinion is a four minute walk down Derb Dabachi from Jemaa el-Fnaa. It’s a small window on the right hand side which is pretty hard to miss, given as locals can be seen huddled around slurping their mugs at almost every hour of the day.
So how good can this smoothie possibly be? Try it for yourself and find out.
Marrakesh is an absolute gold mine for foodies. Which of your favourite Marrakeshian munches should have made the list?