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One of the things that excites me most about visiting a new country is the opportunity to experience new authentic local cuisines and exciting street foods. It’s not always easy though – language barriers, tourist trap restaurants, fear of food poisoning and maybe lacking the confidence to try something new can all hold you back. That’s why taking a guided tour is such a great idea! Knowledgable guides take you to all those little local places you’d never even knew existed!
One tour company that does this well is Marrakech Food Tours!
Now eating out in Morocco is so hard. You stop for a moment to glance at a menu outside a restaurant and you are immediately pounced on and pressured to eat there (usually the food is aimed at tourists – overpriced, bland and substandard). Youssef and Reda are the local guides from Marrakech Food Tours and make your culinary experience in the city so much more pleasurable. You are taken around the souks and streets in small group sizes of around 7 people and they do their best to ensure you have a great time and feel safe.
We met at 6pm in the main square (Jemaa el Fna) to begin our 3 hour Marrakech food walking tour and were instantly made to feel welcome. Here is the breakdown of our tour:
Lamb Tangia and Mechoui
Our first stop was an unassuming little local place with no english signage – just a large stack of clay Tangia pots at the entrance.
We were taken inside and shown a very large pit in the floor and was explained the cooking process of Mechoui – a whole sheep is cooked on a wood burner in the pit for roughly 4-5 hours. This results in beautiful, tender, falling off the bone meat.
We were then taken upstairs to their small rooftop restaurant and were served two dishes – the Mechoui, (pieces of the roasted lamb and the whole roasted sheep head were served up on a platter), and Tangia (lamb slow cooked in a clay pot).
It was a bit freaky having the whole sheep head laid out on the table to pick at and eat. However the meat from the other parts of the sheep’s body was incredible. We were told to eat the meat accompanied with a dash of cumin salt and the combination was delightful. The guides tried to encourage us to try the eyeball from the sheep head however no one in the group was quite brave enough!
The Tangia dish was also divine, absolutely packed with flavour with a beautiful aroma. The dish had been slow cooked in a pot for hours in a fire underneath a local hamman. I tried ordering this dish at a rooftop restaurant a few days later and it tasted so bland and oiley compared to what I ate here. We soaked up the delicious juices with some warm homemade bread and washed everything down with a glass of mint tea. What a fantastic start!
Our next stop was at an incredibly photogenic and colourful olive stand located within the souks, and to my delight we got to sample them all (I adore olives!)
Next we were taken to a small stall to try some savoury pancakes, which is a popular snack food item in Marrakech. We watched a lady roll out the dough and fry it in front of us. I was served a version that was filled with onions and spices, whilst some other members of the group opted for a sweet Nutella version. It was piping hot so a bit difficult to eat quickly and I burned my fingers a little bit trying to photograph it! I enjoyed the dish so much that I found another similar street food stand the next day and purchased the very same pancake.
This is a simple Moroccan dish, which is best described as a simple fish sandwich! Our group sat down together on a large outdoor plastic table and were served a plate of fish patties: deboned sardines mashed together with herbs and tomatoes and then grilled. We popped the patties into some warm bread to make a sandwich and added harissa, chopped raw onions and sliced green olives toppings. AMAZING! So simple, yet so delicious.
We stopped at a small food cart to watch a man cook up some small snails in a spicy broth. I wasn’t scared to try them as I’ve eaten snails once before during a trip to Paris. A ladle full were dished out into a small bowl and we were given a toothpick each to fish out the meat from the shell (this is a bit tricky as the shells were quite hot to hold – again I burned my fingers taking the photograph shown below). The snails tasted ok, very earthy – but not one of the tastiest things on this tour. I ate a couple of them but really wasn’t fussed about eating anymore.
Stuffed spleen (tehal)
A lot of the group were a bit less keen on this one, the dish is a bit like haggis – a spleen stuffed with beef, lamb or camel meats, with spices, and then roasted in an oven. It tasted good, but one bite was enough as I still didn’t like the sound of it (how bad is that?).
Vegetable Cous Cous
We were taken to a very dark and quiet park of the souks, and sat down on a large outdoor table outside a small kitchen run by a sweet elderly lady. This food spot is catered mostly for locals and is only open for breakfast and lunch, however she opens it up in the evening especially for this food tour. Seriously, this was the best cous cous I’ve ever tasted in my life and I still crave this particular dish to this day.
One of the reasons the dish tasted so good is because she puts a lot of time and care into making it – massaging the cous cous by hand for hours and hours. The food was served in a Moroccan style tajine and topped with soft vegetables, caramalised onions and raisins. Yum.
For our final stop of the tour, we popped into a small patisserie to sample a selection of tiny scrumptious sweets and pastries, accompanied a refreshing avocado smoothie. By now the tour had been going for almost four hours so we were definitely getting our monies worth! I was too full to eat all the desserts, so one of the guides popped the leftovers into a cardboard box so we could take them back to the hotel to eat later.
In addition to the food stalls, we also had an interesting guided tour of a communal bakery and a communal furnace (used to cooked Tangia and to heat water for the local hammans).
Before we left we were given a small gift of spices to take home, although nobody got awarded the ‘I ate the eyeball’ sticker haha!
So in summary, this tour was by far one of the best things I did during my trip to Morocco. If you are planning to visit Marrakech and enjoy good food, then you really don’t want to miss out on this – it’s laid back, so much fun and you leave with a very full and happy belly! You also learn all about the history, culture and traditional ways of cooking. I’d actually consider doing this tour again when I return in July 2018.
Now the tour is a little on the expensive side at 56 euros per person, but it is totally worth the money and a great way to spend an evening in Marrakech. I’d recommend booking this tour for your first night, so if you like a particular dish/restaurant, you can go back again.
Book online here. They also do a sandwich tour and a gourmet one (this one sounds excellent!).
More Marrakech posts you might like
- Aït Benhaddou day trip from Marrakech
- Marrakech souks guide
- Things to do in Marrakech
- Le Jardin Secret: An oasis in Marrakech
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Disclaimer: This tour was given to me at a discounted price, but as always, opinions are all my own.
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