Marrakech – Street Food (Jamaa el Fna)

When I think of Morocco my first thought is that of the cuisine.  I was looking forward to trying a traditional moroccan restaurant and seeing how it compares to the ones we have in Dublin but I was also looking forward to trying the street food I’d heard so much about. I was told to go to the “Night Markets” which are in Jamaa el Fna based in Marrakech’s Medina Quarter or Old Town. During the day it had lots of stalls selling orange juice, spices, pastries, touristy nik naks but at night it comes alive with different food venders opening up.

Most of them are selling the same food (which they’ll openly tell you themselves) but they have different varieties of it. They will absolutely hound you to come in as you are walking past. They love getting the tourists to sit at the front so they can point to other tourists and say “Look we’ve got other tourists here!”. One night they kept filling us up with minty tea. I think we got 6 glasses for free so they could keep us there to attract others.

We arrived there at night so our first taste of Moroccan food was here.  They sat us down and plopped a menu in front of us which was in French. Now, I like to think I’m pretty amazing at French but I’m not. I did it for the leaving cert. I can tell you my name and where I’m from but that’s about it so I hadn’t a notion what was on the menu. I recognised some words but the rest were lost on me. An Irish couple sitting beside us told us to get a pastilla and skewers so we did.  A pastilla can only be described as the weirdest combination of flavours your mouth will experience. It’s a sweet chicken pastry. It’s made with warka pastry which is similar to filo pastry and filled with chicken, almonds, egg and topped with icing sugar and cinnamon.  It’s definitely one of the most unique things I’ve tasted and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

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I learned my lesson for the next time we went there and just went up and pointed at things I wanted. Aubergines, skewers, mixed fish and of course more pastillas. They bring out bread, dips and olives as well to accompany everything. Things can get a bit messy so the bread is handy for soaking up the grease!

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Aubergine

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The next day we sampled some of the pastries. We didn’t get them in Jamaa el Fna but we weren’t too far from there. We got 2 for 1e. Judging by the look on the guys face I’m pretty sure he ripped us off with that price but come on, two for a euro? I can live with that. I got a meringue that I *think* was flavoured with saffron. I could be way off but it was nice anyway. TBH I’ve no idea what the other pastries were and since the guy selling them didn’t speak english I didn’t see a point in asking. 

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The next place we tried was called Mechoui Alley. I wanted to go here because I’m a sucker for anything Anthony Bourdain eats and I had read he ate here (still can’t find the episode). All I knew about this place is that they sold lamb. I didn’t realise it was the only thing they sold!

They cook the lamb in a clay oven built into the ground. They cook (i think) 50 lambs at a time and sell it by the kilo. They serve it with bread and cumin salt and that’s it. It was 100% the nicest lamb I’ve ever tasted. The cumin salt complimented it perfectly and it’ll be something I’ll add to my own lamb dishes.

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Another stop we made was to get fruit. I’ve never seen strawberries as big and they were cheap as chips as well. They were also selling cactus fruit but I wasn’t brave enough to try one as I had no idea how to eat it.

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The street food in Marrakesh is gorgeous and I’d highly recommend anyone going there to go to Mechoui Alley to get the lamb. I’ll probably go to Morocco again for a weekend just to have some Mechoui Alley lamb!

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