Moroccan cuisine has gained quite a reputation in recent years and with good reason. The ravenous cyclist has a wide range of options from the famous couscous to more humble street food.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve Morocco’s two best known dishes: couscous and tagines. These classics are found all over the country, although each region has its local variation.
For the couscous, small grains of pasta are steamed over meat and vegetables cooking in a broth below. The couscous is fluffed several times and then tipped into a plate with the meat and vegetables arranged on top and a few spoonfulls of broth poured over the dish. You’ll see Moroccans eating the couscous with their right hand, nimbly shaping it into little balls, but restaurants and home cooks alike usually provide a spoon for the unaccustomed tourist. It’s easy to get a vegetarian couscous but the broth is still likely to be meat-based.
Tagines take many forms but all are slow cooked in a clay pot with a cone-shaped cover that helps to trap the moisture and results in very tender meat. Chicken tagine is common, sometimes with apricots, but look out also for beef and prune tagine, goat tagine (said to be good for diabetics) and tagine kefta, meatballs in a tomato sauce.
Occasionally you may see pastilla listed, pigeon or chicken meat wrapped in pastry. Delicious!
Most restaurants will offer soup or salad to start your meal and some have grilled meats or kebabs and french fries. Omelettes are also quickly whipped up, according to the amount of eggs you’d like. If you just want a quick bite, Moroccan street food isn’t short on choice. Look for sandwiches filled with fish or meat, cooked over charcoal. In Fes we discovered balls of mashed potato known as “makoda”, dipped in a batter and deep fried. Incredibly bad for you but oh so good! Small hole-in-the-wall restaurants will serve a variety of dishes like rice, salad, french fries and a couple meat or fish options.
Fruit is often presented at the end of a meal. Keep an eye out for oranges sprinkled with cinnamon. Just a light dusting of cinnamon really brings out the natural sweetness of the oranges.
When cooking for yourself, you’ll be doing most of your shopping from small stores. Supermarkets are starting to make an appearance in Morocco but only in the bigger cities. In any town it’s easy to find the standard dried goods like hearty rounds of bread, nuts, pasta, tuna, jam and chocolate spreads, preserves like olives and the usual range of non-alcoholic drinks. Cheese only appears in the form of the processed Laughing Cow triangles. Fruit and vegetables are bought from markets.
We very rarely saw beer and wine for sale aside from at the bars in higher-end hotels. Some of the supermarkets carry alcohol but one chain has banned intoxicating drinks entirely. Technically there is no law preventing non-Muslims from drinking alcohol but finding it may be tricky.
Bottled water is cheap and available across the country and many cyclists prefer to stick to bottled water to be on the safe side. We predominantly drank from taps and wells and never fell ill during our time in Morocco. We occasionally used our water filter when we couldn’t ask locals about the safety of water from a particular well. If you plan to draw water from wells, bring your own dipper and a good length of rope as buckets aren’t always provided. We cut the top off a 1.5 litre water bottle to create a scoop. See a video of us getting water from a well in Morocco.