Food for health 

Before coming to Morocco, one of the biggest things you’re likely to hear about is its food. But is it healthy? Most of us these days eat out a lot, which means lots of added sugars and salt, preservatives, chemicals and fats. Our home cooking also tends to use a lot of fast-food options, pre-prepared frozen dinners, and jars. All of these are also loaded with bad stuff. 

So what about Morocco?

Home Cooked Meals

Most food is cooked and eaten at home. There’s a good start. Moroccans cook using very little salt, making it tasty by using spices, especially cumin. The cooking methods used on traditional dishes are mostly steaming and stewing, so they use very little oil and they don’t deep fry. What’s more, when oil is used it’s typically olive oil, which is one of the best oils you can use. 

There is also very little sugar used in the food, which seems to be a contradiction to the overall high sugar consumption in Morocco—high enough for diabetes to be a huge problem.

So where do they get their sugar?


Moroccan Sweet Mint Tea, and Coffee

The Moroccan national pastime is drinking sweet mint tea, and coffee. Even this has its own special treat. The mint is fresh mint, steeped with the tea. You can see huge piles of it for sale around the streets, usually from a farmer who has brought in their herbs and mint – which of course was picked that morning. 

Every second shop seems to be a café, and they are all full of people (mostly men, though it’s not a problem for a woman to go in for a drink if she wishes) drinking tea and coffee and watching life pass by on the street. A small glass of coffee comes with 4 sugar cubes, the tea is just as sweet.

But if sugar is a problem for you, you can ask for your tea without sugar. They might argue with you, but they will make it that way for you.


Bread 

This is a major part of the diet, and perhaps one of the less healthy parts, but it is a staple. The bread is always fresh, and comes in round flat loaves perhaps an inch thick. There are also many bakeries with European style bread, especially the French baguettes and pastries.

Vegetables

The quality of fruit and vegetables is superb in Morocco. When we eat our fruit and vegetables at home, they are often a couple of weeks old.  In Morocco, everything you buy and eat was probably still in the ground or hanging off their tree in the sunshine that morning, so there has been little time to lose their nutrients. 

There is a good range of root vegetables. There is also a huge range of beans, lentils, chick peas and split peas, making up a big part of the diet. They are dried and sold in pyramid shaped piles or sacks in many little shops. They are an excellent food item, particularly good for keeping our system in good health.

And not to forget, these shops also sell lots of dates, prunes and nuts, especially almonds and peanuts.

Fruit

In particular, the stoned fruit here is amazing. Add to this a plentiful supply of citrus fruits and melons and watermelons, plus the tasty little tangerines – which I find are even sweeter than the mandarins I loved so much in Japan. Besides your normal range of fruit, there are also a few exotic ones – African mangoes, pineapples, dragon fruit and avocados, all of which get used in the drink shops. Make sure you try an avocado juice – it is surprisingly good!

That leaves some of my favourites, all of which are everywhere on little street stalls ready for freshly made juice. These are oranges and lemons, and pomegranates. This last one is my secret sin. When I first tried it I found it a little bitter, but now I make a daily pilgrimage to my favourite stand – 2 huge pomegranates juiced in front of me for a large glass which costs me about 10 dirhams, around 1 euro or US dollar.

And another street fruit, though usually not juiced, is the cactus fruit. When in season the farmer will cut the skin away so you can pick the fruit up yourself, keeping your fingers free of the prickles. A lovely sweet treat, most of them for just 2 or 3 dirhams.

 

Meat

Again, as fresh as the fruit and vegetables. The cows, sheep, and chickens were generally mooing, bleating and clucking at breakfast time, and the fish were swimming (No pork, of course. It’s haram or forbidden in Islam).

You may have also heard of the word halal. This is the opposite of haram, and means properly approved. Being fresh and blood free is very important in Islam. The meat is generally only killed as needed, and drained of blood which is considered a contamination. It is then cooked very well to ensure there can be no possible blood flow left.

This also means that most meat becomes so tender it is like butter meat – just like pulled pork. Marrakech is even famous for such a dish, which is called tanjia. Many households will still take their terracotta jar filled with their tanjia ingredients to a local oven to cook, leaving it to stew for maybe 5 hours or even more.


Vegetarians

While the food in Morocco can sometimes seem heavily meat based, there are plenty of non-meat options. Couscous, tajines and rfissa always include a vegetable one. 

Other foods which are normal parts of the diet include humus which is made from chick peas, bssara soup made from split peas, bean dishes and dips, and eggs. In a sandwich shop you can choose what you want, and just get salads and fresh vegetables in your baguette or wrap, or even just ask for it in a takeaway tub. The traditional Moroccan salad is diced tomato and cucumbers.

There are many juice shops around, and an avocado juice in particular can be quite a filling snack.

So on the whole, Moroccan food is good, wholesome and satisfying to eat. Home cooked, steamed or stewed, and using minimal salt, oil, sugar or other additives, it is likely that Moroccan food is better for you than your diet at home. Best of all, it is flavoured with a different range of spices, and herbs such as fresh cilantro, parsley and garlic. So come and try it out. Maybe even check out for yourself what goes into a recipe by taking part in a food event at Blue Door Cuisine. Check out the markets, learn how to cook a dish, and eat it. 

Now that is a day that would be hard to beat!

Written by OzzyHopper. More articles on Tangier and Morocco in:

https://ozzyhopper.com/

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