The magic of Marrakech lies in its ancient medina. The Medina is a sensory experience, vibrant colours, sounds, smells and perhaps the most satisfying to your senses: delicious street food.
Your average street food meal is miles better than most food you’d find in a standard Marrakech cafe. I’ve heard many tourists say they’re disappointed with the food in Morocco (despite its culinary reputation), but it’s mostly because they frequent touristy cafes and restaurants.
I’m here to share some of Marrakech’s best kept culinary secret: street food.
Djema al Fna — the Tourist’s Street Food
The big square is arguably Morocco’s largest tourist attraction. At night it comes alive with dozens of food stalls serving classic Moroccan dishes. The food here is…average at best and the overall experience can be overwhelming for most.
It’s certainly a quintessential Marrakech experience and can be a fun event as long as keep a light heart and know what you’re signing up for. Moroccans say all the food stalls are generally the same, but avoid fresh vegetables and soups as the sanitation of these items is challenging due to the lack of running water in each of the stalls.
A trip to Marrakesh isn’t complete without a night at the square, but this isn’t the real street food of Kech.
The Real Street Food
Bread & Tea (Khboz & A Thé)
Before we begin, there are two things you must know about the food in Morocco: Bread and Tea.
The foundation of almost every meal (and basically life) is bread and mint tea. Most meals are consumed using bread in place of cutlery, plus a tiny glass of mint tea, a digestive for heavy, greasy meals. The khobz (the Moroccan word for bread) you’ll eat here is freshly baked every day, in local bakeries, in very simple and traditional ovens.
There’s a saying in Morocco that says the street food is so delicious because of the extra “microbes” in it. I’ve never been sick from Moroccan food, and I say it’s great for the immune system.
You’ll see lots of street food while you wander in the Medina and my advice is to check out the local area where you are staying and see what they have to offer. You can keep an eye out for a day or two while you discover what the locals gravitate toward.
Ask your concierge at your hotel for recommendations or guidance on getting the best eats in your area, they’ll be happy to help and are used to helping tourist navigate the area.
The Sardine Sandwich
Starting with the most mouth-watering of the bunch, the simple sardine sandwich is not basic as it sounds. It’s made with Sardine balls that are rolled, mixed with sheep fat and fried and is stuffed with a delicious tomato sauce green olives.
You’ll know a sardine sandwich man, by the smell of the sardines cooking and see the vendors frying balls in a small pot.
I could eat this every day — and sometimes I do. Bocadillos is basically a variety of meat, fish, starches, vegetables and condiments stuffed in bread or eaten on a plate, with a side of fries. Also simple, but also incredibly delicious. I’ve tried to recreate this in my own home, but it just isn’t the same, the magic is in the hands of the chef, as they say.
My favourite place to get bocadillos is in Dar el Bacha (up the side street next to Djema al Fna, about 100m, across from the pink mural). I like to eat in on a plate rather than stuffed in bread, plus you get more food this way! (#streetfoodhack)
Beans for breakfast you say? Don’t knock it till you try it. Getting beans in the medina for breakfast is one of my favourite things to do.
Typically what’s offered is Loubia ( the most traditional bean dish), Lentils (very very yummy) and Besarra soup; a white bean soup with Fava Beans, sounds gross but it.is.so.delicious. The beans are eaten with bread and this will fill you up until dinner!
You’ll see men with big pots scattered through the medina serving soup or beans, but check out the Talaa area inside the Souks. This is more of a morning dish, so venture out to find some beans. I love the medina in the morning, it’s a totally different experience.
Juice + Sweets
You haven’t truly tasted orange juice until you’ve had orange juice in Morocco. There must be something about the climate that makes the oranges more flavorful and sweet.
You’ll find juice everywhere, and will see men on the streets juicing oranges for hours. The perfect replenishing drink for the hot Moroccan sun and hours of medina wandering.
Another one of my favourite discoveries: avocado juice. Traditionally made with milk and sugar, this is a different kind of green juice. It’s sweet, filling and can also be made with almonds and dates or a few other special additions.
I prefer to have my avocado juice with orange juice and no sugar, it’s my go-to juice obsession. The juice is more of an afternoon and evening event, you’ll see juice bars open late on street corners surrounded by both young and old getting their juice fix and a sweet treat.
My go-to juice spot is in Bab Tagazhout, where I’m a regular and the juice man Sofian always knows my order.
Where there is juice there are (usually) pastries. You’ll find a variety of sweet treats but the most classic kind is Milfiul; a sweet and soft pastry, with thin layers of cake and fluffy layers of creamy covered in a sticky frosting.
A crowd favourite for both tourists and locals, you can’t leave Morocco until you had M’smen. It’s a buttery, flakey, crepe-like food, eaten with sweets in the morning and sometimes stuffed with savoury condiments in the evening.
The original hot pocket. You’ll see women making these by hand over big flat iron stoves throughout the town. Don’t miss out on these flaky sheets of goodness and make sure to get them fresh and hot.
Weird & Offal Things
While my recommendations above aren’t too shocking we can’t talk about street food without talking about the crazy, weird and sometimes shocking dishes. Moroccans do love their organ meats and leave no part of the animal go to waste (this one time I ate Cow feet…)
Moroccan snails aren’t exactly as bougie as escargot (or quite as appetizing). These are as a stew in a ton of spices and you pick out the snails tiny body shell with a toothpick.
These snails are your average-run-of-the-mill garden snails from farms in the mountains. You’ll find vendors in their charming white coats serving big pots of snails in Djema al Fna. Not the most appetizing but certainly a once in a lifetime taste.
Oh, sheep head. Moroccans love some good sheep head. The head comes from the “meschwi” sheep which is a traditional process of cooking a whole sheep hanging in an underground oven of coals for over 8 hours. In this case, you don’t eat the contents of the sheep head, but the cheek meat (not totally creepy right?).
Almost a medicinal tea, with dozen of herbs and spices, to warm the body and give energy. It’s a sugary, spicy treat you can find in the square. My expert advice would be to skip out on the food stalls in Djema al Fna square and enjoy some spicy tea and Sligo, a nutty sweet treat, for a square food experience.
Words of Wisdom
It can be tricky and intimidating finding street foods at first, as it’s hard to know what the small stalls or vendors are making at a glance, and doubly difficult with a language barrier. I highly recommend Marrakech Food tours, which host guided food tours inside the Medina most days of the week.
I went on a tour as research for this article and had the most incredible evening, of which my sardine sandwich, snails and sheep head were my new discoveries.
Final words: Be adventurous, with a small amount of caution, and don’t be afraid to communicate with the vendors and ask questions if you can. You’d be surprised how little words factor into communication, so don’t be afraid to look silly because you’ll have a culinary adventure in the process.