“Foodie Fridays” are dedicated to my two great loves: food and Fridays. In these posts, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite varieties of Moroccan and North African cuisine.
I recently ate dinner at an authentic Moroccan restaurant with my aunt and uncle, and I can report with confidence that it was an unforgettable culinary adventure. We lounged for no less than three hours in a low-seated booth, enveloped by intricate tapestries, while the gentle hum of Middle Eastern music set the scene for our excursion.
The meal arrived in five courses, with my favorite being a sweet, savory dish called “Pastilla,” a traditional Arabo-Andalusion-Maghrebian dish. Slow-cooked meat (often chicken or pigeon) is folded between crisp sheets of crepe-like dough (called werqa), and topped with ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s sweet, salty, and incredibly tasty.
While the pastilla was my favorite dish, the dinner was still a five course meal. Here’s a list of all dishes that were served:
First was a cup of fresh lentil soup.
Second was “Salad Marrakesh,” consisting of a dollop of homemade hummus with pickled tomatoes, cucumbers, and warm bread.
Third was pastilla. I seriously can’t wait to eat this dish more often!
Fourth was the main course, which could be selected from a wide variety of options. I personally chose the “Tagine of Chicken, Honey, and Prunes,” which was served with light honey sauce, almonds, prunes, and sesame seeds.
Fifth was baklava, a rich, sweet pastry made from layers of filo, filled with chopped nuts, and held together with syrup or honey. It has been my favorite dessert for years, so when I found out I was being assigned to Morocco, I knew instantly that baklava would be in my near future.
This entire dining event was just as culturally enlightening as it was delicious, and I could even argue that it was one of the funnest experiences I’ve had at a restaurant. The owner, Mamdouh, shared tales of North Africa and the Middle East for hours, all while diligently keeping our glasses brimming with warm mint tea. Still, when the time came for us to pack up and leave the little restaurant, Mamdouh looked us in the eyes and exclaimed, “You are my family today.”
This statement reaffirmed what I’ve heard a number of times in the past: Moroccans are incredibly kind and hospitable. I’ve been nervous about feeling lonely during Peace Corps, but with people like Mamdouh walking around, something tells me I’ll be just fine.
Here’s a video for those of you who are interested in the pastilla-making process.