A little history to better understand and be transported by Moroccan gastronomy
The richness of Moroccan cuisine certainly comes from multiple influences linked to the kingdom's turbulent history.
The Turkish influences recognized by eating skewers and grilled meats in Morocco would come from Algerians who fled their country in the 16th century, occupied by the Turks. To be exhaustive, it would also be necessary to speak of African influences, brought by trans-Saharan caravans and more recent English and French influences.
On the markets and on the street or how to eat cheap in morocco
In Morocco, it is possible to eat for a few dirhams whether in the cities or in the countryside. Strolling through the streets of Fez we made whole meals from market to market and from sidewalk to sidewalk. The R'Cif market, in the shade of the reeds, is one of the largest markets in the medina of Fez.
Grills and sandwiches of skewers
Street vendors or small grilled eateries treated us to meat sandwiches flavored with spices and herbs. For 5 to 10 dirhams for 6 skewers, you will find them in particular near Bab Boujeloud (at the beginning of rue Talaa Kebira, towards the butchers), RCif, or Bab Ftout. We realized that it was sometimes necessary to negotiate the price announced to tourists. Surprised by the 25 dirhams that we were asked for the first time, compared to the prices of the menus in the taverns and the standard of living, we paid a little surprised. As far as we remember, we had almost never negotiated the food while traveling. But by observing and renewing our grilled snacks, we quickly understood that there it was necessary to ask the price before being served!
Fassi style snails
We were surprised by these stands of snails cooked in a spicy broth, which the inhabitants of Fez are so fond of.
These sweet or savory puff pastry triangles that are easily spotted on the stalls form a delicious snack, typical of Fez.
Traditional dishes on a corner of the table in a Gargote
Immersed in the atmosphere of the medina, eating a rustic Moroccan dish in a street eatery is an experience not to be missed in Fez.
Outside the house, it was one of my favorite times for dinner in the evenings when I spent 2 months in Fez during an internship, about ten years ago. I let myself be carried away by the smells of the adjoining markets and the steaming dishes, the noise of casseroles, conversations in Arabic, and the “balek balek” (attention) of porters and loaded donkey drivers crossing the alleys of the medina.
Eight years later, these table corners are invaded by tourists with menus in all languages and clearly identifiable signs with the TripAdvisor recommendation symbol! Towards Bab Boujloud, you will find a whole line of well-rated eateries from Chez Rachid to Chez Thami, supplied by many touts who are not really unfriendly and polyglot ready to offer you the menu at 50 dirhams instead of 70. Even if the place is no longer authentic at all, you will eat your fill of cheap tajines and couscous in the heart of the bustling medina.
We much preferred to eat in the Bab Allah Gargotte a stone's throw from the top of Talaa Kebira opposite the Bouanania restaurant. Here no tout, but a couple of charming Moroccans. She, with the help of her sister, prepares delicious dishes served all day until 11 p.m. He walks a few meters in front of his 4 tables to tempt the customer and serves with great delicacy. It is possible to order more elaborate dishes from them one day in advance, such as fish tagines or pigeon pastilla.
The kresa, bread in the form of a flat pancake, is an essential element of the Moroccan meal. To buy at the local communal oven or in all the stalls for 1dh.
When everything seems closed at certain times on Ramadan days, you can always find bread to buy that you can garnish with cheese spread, vegetables, or dried meat preserved in fat (khlia) found in the souks and markets.
Very appetizing pastries and delicacies
Whether with squares of fried puff pancakes (msemen), fried pastries with honey and sesame (shebbakia), gazelle horns (kaab el-ghzal), gourmets will be spoiled for choice.
Our favorite gazelle horns in the medina are that of Haj Abdullah Namou, attached to the Qaraouiyine Mosque. It is also the oldest ice cream parlor in the city. The adjacent café offers a few tables, some of which are on the mezzanine, which allows you to breathe a few minutes away from the sometimes oppressive effervescence of this part of the medina.
But according to the inhabitants, the best gazelle horns, those prepared with real almonds and not peanuts flavored with sweet almond extract, can be bought in the new town, at the Qaraouane pastry shop for example.
There are also dried fruits, dates, and nougat stalls for snacks. Brightly colored, these very photogenic stalls are scattered all over the medina, but especially near the Qaraouiyne mosque and the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss.
Depending on the season, fruit carts include exotic and local prickly pears. They are prepared in front of us to eat on the go.
Picnic at the jnan sbil garden
Between Fes-el Bali and Fes-el Jdid, these magnificently rehabilitated historic gardens were a nice surprise for this second stay in Fez (closed for work the first time in 2008). Unexpected for picnicking or taking a quiet break in the shade of palm trees and eucalyptus or near the water of the ponds or the wadi, this favorite place for walks of the Fassi people is a godsend for slow-travelers like us!
A little thirst perhaps after all that?
If we did not dare to drink water from the cup of the fountains, we took advantage of the stalls of fresh fruit juice squeezed in front of us (from 4 to 7 DH) and various and varied cold drinks from the shops of the souk (large bottle fresh water and small sodas at 6dh). Mint tea is drunk in a café (full of chatty men playing with little horses or smoking a cigarette) or on the panoramic terrace of a restaurant! Count 5 and 10 dirhams depending on the place for a glass of mint tea.
Where to eat in fez in restaurants
Often installed in beautiful historic residences, they are rarely cheap. Some serve gourmet cuisine whose menus are around 300-400 dh and more. The views of Fez from their terraces are all more beautiful than the others.
If we have rarely eaten there, they represent our favorite places to have a drink or take a break to rest our feet. Getting high on the roof terraces of restaurants in Fez is an exquisite breath of fresh air in the heart of the medina.
Here are some of our good addresses to take a gourmet break in fez
The Kasbah, at Bab Boujloud. The two terraces, the smaller of which overlooks the lively Place Serrajine and the Baba Boujloud gate, are very pleasant and inexpensive places to stop. The dishes are very good. It was my canteen for going out and writing during my 2 months internship in Fez.
the Clock Cafe (rue Tala Kebira), is more expensive, this cultural and trendy café/restaurant on several floors has charming little terraces. The perfectly flavored and spicy mutton burgers can satisfy those who are hungry during a long trip! You still have to pay 90 dirhams to taste it with fries.
The terrace of the palace of fez place R'Cif: An address renowned for its cuisine but which also offers some beautiful rooms (6 or 7 for around 100 euros per night) in a refined atmosphere while remaining family-friendly. The terrace is splendid and the fresh orange juice certainly more expensive than in the street will leave you with a beautiful memory…
Café Noria: Just after leaving the Jnan Sbil garden, on the Fez Jdid side. The address offers very good keftas (portions of fried fragrant minced meat). We took a menu for two, which is not shocking at all in Morocco in small restaurants. Very rich with an extra drink, we paid 110 Dh in all. The garden of the restaurant is a haven of peace, you will find there as many tourists as Moroccans on a walk.
In the houses of fez: ancestral or revisited Moroccan cuisine
It is undoubtedly at the inhabitant and in the riads that we ate the best cuisine in Morocco. Indeed, Moroccan recipes take hours to prepare, which is not possible for a restaurant.
In the street, we ate the day of our arrival a dish of chickpeas and meat. We understood more or less afterward that it was about sheep's knees. Tasty but quite difficult to eat and very gelatinous. In fact, this dish is according to Moroccans very good but requires a lot of cleaning and a very long preparation not always possible for small street cooks…
The quality of fresh products and the subtle know-how of mixing spices requires experience like that of the women in the house or a real passion like that of certain talented cooks and cooks.
In general, eating in Fez with the locals requires warning the day before to possibly make your choice of the menu, allow the supply to the market, and the preparation of the meal.
Sleep and eat in fez in the dar of Mr and Madame everyone
The dar is the traditional house of the Moroccan medinas. Protected from the outside gaze, it lets nothing appear from the outside. Walking through the narrow streets of the medina of Fez, one sees only high walls and a few rare windows protected by grids of Moucharabiehs. Once past the chicane entrance, the house is organized around the patio. The architecture of the riad is also formed around a real open-air garden. There would be more than 10,000 houses in the medina of Fez. Real estate speculation linked to the purchase of these residences with dream potential by foreigners, fortunately, has not reached the level of Marrakech, and the fassi can continue to live there (for the moment).
We slept with locals with a unique association in Morocco, Zayaratesfes. To renovate or sometimes simply to be able to maintain the dar of their ancestors, these Fassi families, often modest, have fitted out a few inexpensive rooms in the medina of Fez to accommodate travelers. The breakfast, often including all kinds of pancakes, is very generous to start the day off right! Zorha prepared an exceptional couscous for a whole day! Often count around 100 dirhams for a full meal.
Eat and sleep in a gourmet Riad in Fez
Many riads in Fez have been renovated into rooms or guest houses. There are hundreds of them on Airbnb and Booking. Looking for a place to sleep we tried to select the "official" guest rooms and those where the owner lived on site (if possible Moroccan).
The Riads of ARMH FES pay particular attention to gastronomy. They also organize Fez Gourmet, a dedicated event, for a fortnight in the spring (possibility to book in all participating Riads with a single price of 280dh for the full meal with water and mint tea).
Breaking the bank to sleep in one of these Riads is quite a magical experience. Some of them even make it possible to reconcile sleeping like princes in Fez and at a low price.
This is the case of the Riad Dar Al Safadi where we slept a few romantic nights during our last trip to Fez. On order, the meal (180 dirhams) consists of multiple exquisite dishes inspired by Moroccan cuisine and revisited. Chantal and Fedoua prepared a typical Fez dish medfouna for us, delicious starters of fresh produce (fragrant sardines, beets with fresh goat cheese and mint, etc.), and even a dessert to end this feast just out of gluttony! We had not chosen the menu this time and loved having the surprise of the dishes brought throughout the dinner, like guests…
The last evening of this great weekend in Fez was the icing on the cake!
Moroccan cooking class in fez
Having become a bit of a fashionable activity, learning to prepare a Moroccan specialty is easy to organize during a trip to Fez. Cooking classes are flourishing in particular in certain cafes and riads. Graciously or for a hundred dirhams in the Riad where you are staying, up to 600 dirhams per person at the Clock café, learn to make mint tea, a tajine, or discover spices from the market stalls to the plate, is an experiment to be tested. An equally fun activity when traveling to Morocco with children.
Our 10 favorite Moroccan specialties are not to be missed during a trip to fez
THE EVER-PRESENT TAJINE
The essential dish in Morocco was originally cooked by smothering it in an earthenware cooking vessel by the Berbers. More and more prepared in a pot to save time while nevertheless preserving the flavors, there are hundreds of tagine recipes. Consisting of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit… the most popular is perhaps the lamb tagine with prunes and almonds and the chicken tagine with candied lemons.
THE FAMOUS COUSCOUS
Popular all over the world, this dish was traditionally eaten on Friday at noon after prayers. Sharing couscous with the family is a convivial moment. It is prepared with meat, vegetables and legumes, and wheat semolina.
THE PASTILLA, FOR GREAT OCCASIONS
Without a doubt, the Moroccan specialty that I prefer. Originally from Fez, it is a kind of pie of pastry sheets traditionally stuffed with pigeon but also with chicken and fish. The top is covered with icing sugar and cinnamon.
This is the entrance to great occasions!
My first pigeon pastilla eaten at an engagement with my fingers around small low tables will remain one of my most pleasant memories of my first trip to Fez. Another long recipe to prepare, which is why the one you eat in the street (usually not homemade) gives a little insight but does not come close to the pastillas tasted at the home.
THE LITTLE FORGOTTEN SEFFA MEDFOUNA
We tasted this dish from Fez that we did not know about in March during our last trip. This is a recipe for chicken covered (because medfouna means buried) with angel hair pasta steamed in a couscoussier several times in a row… Another delicacy of Moroccan cuisine!
THE KAAB EL-GHZAL OR GAZELLE HORNS
Pastries in the shape of a crescent moon with almonds and orange blossom, we particularly appreciate the Moroccan version. On the spot during a trip to Morocco, it is a great snack that does not crush too much in the backpack. The recipe is to be tried back home for guaranteed success!
THE INEVITABLE MINT TEA
A reflection of Moroccan hospitality and friendliness, mint tea is a special ritual. Preparing mint tea requires knowing the ingredients of the mint tea recipe but also the sequence of precise actions to be performed with the metal teapot: washing the tea and removing its bitterness, infusing the tea and the leaves of mint while preventing it from burning, mix the tea and enhance its flavors.
Without being connoisseurs, we quickly realize that sometimes it is succulent and sometimes missed! Prepared with Chinese green tea, it actually arrived quite late in Morocco around the 17th century. In homes where mint tea is served with pastries, the “ceremonial” mistress swirls hot water and a towel to rinse her hands.
HARIRA AND RAMADAN CUISINE
Moroccan soup is rich and very appreciated by Moroccans at the break of the Ramadan fast. High in protein, it contains tomatoes, onions, pulses, meat, coriander, and spices.
Traveling during Ramadan to Fez is not to be particularly avoided. It just requires adapting and being a bit understanding (dedicated article to come on traveling to Muslim countries during Ramadan). We felt welcomed with open arms. An excellent way to discover Moroccan culture and cuisine, this month is both full of restraint (fasting, dress code, religious prohibitions) and full of excess (lack of sleep, gargantuan meals, etc.).
These filled donuts will certainly remind you of something! There are many variations of it around the world. In India and Asia, they are called samosas, in Africa sambusa, in Portugal chamuça…
In Morocco, briouates are also sweetened with almonds and honey.
A treat, to be enjoyed with your fingers during a walk in the medina. A must for street food in Fez!
THE ORANGE AND CARROT SOUP HIDE ITS GAME WELL
The orange, which is frequently found in Moroccan cuisine, goes very well with the carrot, and the touch of cumin is associated with this soup. Established in Morocco by the Berbers, we discovered it in Tamtatouch at the auberge Baddou in the Todra Valley and found in Fez at the Ryad el Safadi. Seeming like child's play to redo, we tried to prepare the orange soup and the Moroccan carrot on our return from our long romantic weekend in Fez, to introduce it to our minibars. Without success… Ah… the art of seasoning and handling spices… we still have work to do!
MOROCCAN SALADS DO YOU WANT THEM?
Arranged on small plates around the main course, they also reflect all the subtlety of Moroccan cuisine. Nothing to do with the cubed or grated beets and carrots that are served in Fez on tourist menus! The raw material is certainly fresh but the taste is not there. With friends, homestays, or at tables d'hôtes, we feasted on the tomato and cucumber salad garnished with candied lemon, herbs, and spices or the kind of eggplant ratatouille cooked in olive oil and wonderfully scented (Zaalouk) to name but a few.
What's up Doc? Eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day is good, especially when they are fresh!
Discovering the flavors of Moroccan cuisine is a delicious experience not to be missed during a trip to Fez. Fruit of an impressive melting pot, it is difficult to get tired given the variety of gastronomy. Unfortunately, the stereotypical tourist menus of the medina might lead you to believe otherwise. So push open the doors to find where to sleep and where to eat in Fez, with locals and in the tables d'hôtes of the riads.