Monday, 1 November 2010

Marrakech Part Two: The Food

It has to be said that before embarking upon our trip to Marrakech, one thing we all said we were looking forward to was the local cuisine. Indulging in a ridiculous amount of food is one of those fantastic charms about being on holiday, and it is safe to say that we were not left disappointed.

Some herbs and spices
 used in cooking
We tried to eat at as many different locations as possible to vary the types of Moroccan food available to us, and being in a city like Marrakech, there were so many options around.

Now when I was in India, it was a general rule that even a whiff of the street food would give you a jippy tummy. We avoided the open plan restaurants that lead out onto the street, the boys very aptly naming the ‘death kitchens’. With this in mind, when someone suggested eating at the street markets in Marrakech, I was dubious. Due to the fact we were only there for five days, getting ill would have completely ruined the entire trip, and would have made a particularly unpleasant flight home also.

However, I was hardly going to kick up a fuss when the eight other people I was with were all up for it, so I went in with the outlook that at least we’d all get ill together! And I certainly don’t regret it.

The street markets themselves are like nowhere I’ve ever been, even before you sit down to eat. You take one step in and there are dozens of men either side of you trying to rope you in to eat at your restaurant. I don’t know where on earth they all got them from but we had Little Britain quotes coming at us from all sides to get our attention, and a ‘lovely jubly!’ thrown in every now and again, presumably Jamie Oliver’s influence from when he cooked in the markets. As much as the hassle can get annoying on the shopping streets and in the souks, it was quite a funny experience in the markets, so I encourage anyone going there to just get stuck in. As long as you don’t mind being called ‘the only gay in the village’, you’ll survive.
A snapshot of those infamous markets
All the places to eat look exactly the same, distinguished from each other only by their numberings. Eventually we were charmed over by one particularly persuasive chap who got a round of applause when he managed to rope in all nine of us. From then on you are showered with little plates of heaven. The food is all on the stall in front of you, so you can let you eyes do the choosing, point, and give them a quantity.

Morocco's gem: the tajine.
The markets are cheap, lively and as an added bonus none of us got ill. However, if you want to dine in peace they are certainly not the place for you. I’m more than sure there are some amazing restaurants to dine in dotted around Marrakech, but I don’t think we came across many of them. Even a few of the places recommended in the guidebook were disappointing. The food doesn’t seem as fresh, and even something is simple as a spaghetti bolognaise was rated by my friend as one of the most bland things she’s even tasted.

If you’re staying in a Riad with a cook, you’ve hit the jackpot, and we were blessed with our amazing chef Amina. What could be better than to experience home-cooked food in a foreign country from someone who knows exactly how it should be prepared? Never take for granted this luxury if it is available to you.

Whatever you tastes are, they will be catered for in Marrakech. But it has to be said that the best food we experienced was from the simple, humble and honest looking places. If you take away all the madness and competitive elements from the streets markets, this is exactly what they are. That or just kick back with a tajine in your Riad. 

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