I’ve had Moroccan food before and I wasn’t really a fan of it. It’s like my opinion on Ethiopian food, I can eat it but it wouldn’t be my first choice unless I was having it at my friend Beth’s house, since she is an amazing cook. Something about Injera doesn’t sit well with my Trinidadian palate … roti or roti-like bread should be hot, not served cold. I think I have had Moroccan food three times previously in Toronto, New York and London. Each time, I thought it was ok, but nothing to write home about and definitely not something I would recommend to a Trini person.
Last night, in my spooky, old, creepy hotel, I had the best Moroccan food I’ve ever had. I had few expectations of what I would get in the Hotel Continental since the place looked so old. I’m glad to report that I was completely wrong … at least in my expectations of the food. My meal consisted of a 4 course tasting menu, available for about $20 with drinks.
- Harira : This is Morocco’s national soup. The soup I had was simply great! Simple, flavourful, hearty and a good sized portion. It’s basically a tomato and lentil soup. It’s fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper, and cinnamon, and with enough fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, celery and onion. My waiter spoke good English, so I explained my aversion to dairy, since I didn’t want any Smen in it, and he explained that they don’t use Smen in their Harira. I learn’t about Smen in my previous experiences and I knew that I didn’t like it. (I’m copying an image from another site). I think I’m going to have a lot of Harira in Morocco 🙂
- Tajine de Poulet au Citron (Chicken with Preserved lemon and fresh olives) : The next course was this chicken dish served with fresh bread and a bit of cous cous. This was truly a spectacular dish – the previous version of this that I had were bland and a bit insipid. This version was fragrant and had so much flavor. The chicken was swimming in the lemon broth with tons of fresh olives swimming along.
The Tajine itself is a small claypot with a conical lid and it is typical to serve the dish within the Tajine itself. Making the preserved lemon is process in itself and definitely something to see. The waiter took me to the kitchen to show me how the lemons were sitting in this huge jar. The cook explained that what makes or breaks the lemons is the quality of the Kosher salt that is used in the preparation.
- Couscous au pollo (Chicken with cous cous) : I find that Cous Cous can be a hit or miss dish for me. However, I was so impressed by the first two dishes (even though I was full), I ordered the Cous Cous. This was very good, but not as great as the first two dishes. This was also fragrant with cinnamon, cloves and parsley. It was also packed with raisin, prunes and toasted groundnuts, of which I only like the nuts. I think that because there were so many raisins in the cous cous, it threw me off the dish a bit. Still impressive though.
- Traditional Moroccan tea service : I don’t really need to explain this. Morocco and tea go together like Rice and Chinese people. Two pots of Moroccan mint tea (green tea sprinkled over sprigs of fresh, common mint, add water, boil then strain), all served in a silver Moroccan tea pot.
Definitely not the worst meal at all, and for $20 Canadian, which include bottled water and a coke, I felt like I ate like a king. more importantly, it’s given me the confidence to have a lot more Moroccan food … in Morocco – I don’t know how I’ll feel about having Moroccan food outside of Morocco as yet.