Part of the tour I took in Morocco involved a meal at a “traditional” Moroccan restaurant. It’s a safe bet that when you take a group tour – especially a big group tour – you’re not going to be getting the best or most authentic food you possibly could. My particular group wasn’t large, around 8 or 10 people including me, but the ferry company probably sends a couple hundred people over each day. We entered the restaurant after wandering through a semi-open air market. I have to admit that it wasn’t inspiring to see the way that some of the food was stored, but there are several Moroccan restaurants in LA that I’ve been to and enjoyed, so I was looking forward to see what the meal would bring.
First off, I got a coke. It’s not an exciting way to start a meal, but I did get a kick out of seeing the non-Western label on the bottle. The meal went a little downhill from this point, as the tourist-oriented food was not nearly as well-spiced or flavorful as the food I’ve had in Moroccan restaurants here. I did enjoy the “traditional” music that the live band played, which consisted of several rounds of Auld Lang Syne.
The first course of the meal was chicken soup. This tasted, as someone suggested, like canned chicken soup with some cinnamon sprinkled on top. That sums it up exactly. The cinnamon didn’t add anything to the overall flavor of smell of the dish, as though it was just a bit of garnish.
The second course was kebabs. Although I asked, the waiter didn’t specify what type of meat this was. I can just say that it was quite bland and overcooked to the point of extreme dryness. No one at the table ate much of these and the waiter didn’t seem a bit surprised as he cleared the table.
The third course was couscous with vegetables and chicken. Here, at last, was a good dish! The veggies were all tender and the couscous was cooked perfectly. There were a couple of pieces of chicken on top of each serving. I got what appeared to be thighs, and they were very juicy and tender. Several other diners got less identifiable chicken pieces, but still everyone seemed to be satisfied with this course.
After the couscous, we were served some mint tea and almond cookies. The almond cookies are actually Kaab el Ghazal, which translates to Gazelle Horns. They have an almond paste filling wrapped inside a very thin pastry dough. They are baked just long enough to cook the dough through. I’ve had these before and found them to be good, with a buttery pastry and a moist, flavorful almond filling. These were on the bland side and rather undercooked. Again, not popular with the group. The mint tea, on the other hand, was excellent. Sweet, hot and bursting with fresh mint flavor. I had two glasses.
Overall, it was an interesting experience but a bit forgettable with the exception of the mint tea, which I’ll be making as soon as my new mint plant get big enough for me to harvest its leaves for a big batch!