Thursday, May 27, 2010
If you're in Marrakech you have to brave the Dejemaa el Fna at night at least once (if not every night) as it provides a memorable food and cultural experience.
During the day, the Djemaa el Fna is filled--for the most part--with stands selling fresh squeezed orange juice, figs, dates, dried apricots, mint and spices. There are a scattering of women offering mehndi and a few snake charmers to entertain the tourists too.
Once the sun begins to go down the square begins to transform. Countless numbers of embellished green metal stalls are hauled into the square and assembled everywhere you look.
At night the square fills with locals and turns into a huge open air restaurant. The entire square is pitch black, lit only by the light of the full moon and endless food stalls.
Once you see it, you begin to understand why UNESCO branded this place a "masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity". There is smoke, steam and the smell of food everywhere. Each stall tries, rather aggressively, to get you to choose them for your dinner. We spent a little time walking through, seeing what was available before settling down for dinner...
Sheep head! Mother Humble's favorite. Though we didn't partake this visit. You can see a few photos of that in a previous post here.
Eventually we settled on #12, the food looked fresh, it was very busy and the hawkers were more relaxed.
We started with a plate of olives. Sauces (tomato and spicy) to dip the ubiquitous dinner accompaniment, a round crusty bread called khobz (which I plan on baking for the blog).
Next came plates of sweet peppers, aubergine (eggplant) and wafer (fried potato (?) cake with a bit of minced lamb inside)
Meat with a side of meat and more meat. This was not a place for me to indulge my vegetarian tendencies. Mixed grilled skewers (chicken, lamb, vegetable, chicken hearts and a few others). Sausages (and meatballs apparently, found under the skewers). Mixed fish (a couple types of unidentifiable fried white fish, whole fried shrimps and strips of fried squid). Couscous with chicken and vegetables (carrots and some type of fibrous potato I'm not familiar with).
It was all very good, though the chicken skewer might have been a tad undercooked. Still, these seem to be great places to indulge in street food without having to worry about what it might do to your belly. (In fact, none of us had any belly troubles and we basically ate everything we saw in Morocco).
More food than any of us could eat. Total cost, about $20 for 4 1/2 people.