They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, well I believe that the way to a city’s heart is through MY stomach! You can learn so much on a good food tour. Whether it is a cultural point you didn’t know, a new ingredient that you discover and love or the chance to walk into a food spot you were nervous about entering. During our Marrakech tour, we did all three. No trip to Morocco is complete without learning all but the food. Read on for our full A Chef’s Tour Marrakesh Food Tour review.
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Our tour was hosted by A Chef’s Tour but all opinions are entirely our own.
We were running a little late as usual, so it was with puffing chests and red faces that we first met Rachid, our tour guide. He greeted us with a big smile and an easy manner. Turns out, we were the only people booked onto the tour (an advent age of offseason travel). This meant we could set off straight and begin out munch through Marrakesh.
Learning Our ABCs
Amlou is a uniquely Moroccan sweet paste which combines almonds, honey and argan oil. It is food but you could definitely sell it as a beauty product with those three ingredients. In fact, as well as being sweet and delicious it is packed with nutrients and good for joints, cholesterol and boosting your immune system.
As a Brit, I LOVE a crumpet1 Happily, Morocco has something just like them, bubbly bread that is ready for tasty toppings. Baghrirs are semolina pancakes with lots of lovely holes that make excellent little reservoirs for the amlou. We drizzled it slowly on and demolished the pancakes in record time.
OK, I mean yoghurt but I had to get it to be a C word. To go with our tasty bread we each had a glass of delicious homemade raib. It was creamy and a little sweet. Apparently many families make their own every day which must be so good for their healthy gut bacteria.
The Giant Oven
We entered the community bakery thinking we would have a quick look, nod politely and exit again…but this is no ordinary Marrakesh food tour. Up the stairs we went and there we were presented with the guy preparing Khobz rolls at a furious speed. Then, we were tasked with helping to pat the dough into rounds, crusted with crunchy semolina. This bread is served with nearly every meal and I suppose it was time to prove (bread joke) that we were worthy of the few tons we had consumed. I don’t think we did too badly as they were allowed downstairs to the oven.
The brick-lined, wood-fired ovens in community bakeries are HUGE and the bakers have to keep track of thousands of rolls a day. People drop off their trays, have the bread baked and then pick it up later. It’s incredible. It stops many homes from having to own an oven, plus the fierce heat of summer isn’t made worse by their heating up an oven. It’s incredible.
As we were doing our very best GBBO impressions upstairs, a tray of fresh sardines was roastng the bread oven downstairs. Sardines are abundant off the coast of Morocco an a fresh sardine is worlds away from the overly salty type you might have had a tin. They are plump, a little oily and not too fishy. We grabbed a couple of rolls, popped the beautiful fish inside and squeezed on some lemon for a perfect snack. It reminded me of many a happy BBQ in the summer. Rachid warned us there may be small bones left in the butterflie beauties but with the bread built in help them slip down, it wasn’t a problem at all.
Tangia 1 – Preparations
We were both handed a clay pot with a wire handle called a tanjier (or tangia) and taken to the butchers. The exposed meat of these shops has always made me a little nervous but before I knew it, we had some fresh meat tipped into the pot and we were waving goodbye. Then, a few shops along, we added in some wonderful flavours. We threw in some turmuric and other spices, plenty of garlic, fresh herbs and then topped it up witth water.
Chebakya are rose-shaped pasties, especially popular during ramadan. The dough is shaped before being deepfried and soaked in honey and rose water. They are very sweet and sticky and are often paired with harira soup (more about that later).
Feeling buoyed by our excellent roll patting, we were ready for the challenge when we were told we would be making some of these little lovelies. I shouldn’t have been so cocky. Mr Fluskey got the hang of it quickly but I produced one utter fail after another. The dough had been perforated to make folding it easier but my brain just douldn’t solve the 3D puzzle. Luckily, we were allowed some that had been prepared earlier by the professionals.
I laughed so hard when I saw our attempts being quickly rolled back into the next lot of dough. I am glad we didn’t ruin their reputation.
Tangia 2 – Toasting
Around the corner from the community hammam entrance was a set of stairs covered in ash. It was with some tredpidation that we descended into the dark heat. Turns out this is where the fire to heat the hammam is. However, we weren’t just here to gawk at the flames. Instead, we handed our tanjiers over to the firekeeper who popped it on a pile of hot ashes along with many others. Another community initiative is this sharred fire pit. Prepare your stew and give the hamam firemaster a few dirhams to cook it for you for a few hours. Grbab it later and you have a hot, delicious dinner!
A Moroccan Burger…ish
Our last tasting before we moved to a different area was a minced meat roll. I have tried to find the name but failed. Here, spiced and beautifully seasoned mincemeat is piled into a roll and traditionally sothered with cilli sauce. Mr Fluskey opted to skip the chilli but it was yummy! The meat was soft, the roll was soft and it was all rather messy…in the best way. I would demolish a fair few of these on the way home from a night out!
Perfectly Pink Prickly Pear
We walked for around 15 minutes, winding through the medina. As we passed one small cart, Rachid asked if we had tried prickly pear before. I had once as a child but never since so he grabbed us a couple. The fruit of the cactus tasted like a mix of watermelon and something sweet like bubblegum. We were urged not to touch them, instead using toothpicks to plop them into our mouths. Just check out how they stained our tongues! We had to go back for seconds!
Just around the corner was our next stop. I was excited to try the preserved meat known as Khlea. Biltong, jerky, they make me very happy. However, looking at the brightly coloured piles of meat on the counter, I was a little taken aback. Khlea is made by putting strips of meat (usually beef) in the sun before it is mixed with cumin, garlic and coriander. Then the meat is cooked in water, fat and oil. It’s this mixture that you can see left around the meat.
We had a little on a small paper plate and popped some into our mouths. The texture was soft, slightly gelatunous and covered in fat. I was NOT a fan. I can imaine that it would be lovely as part of a hot dish but I was not keen to go in for a second bite, Mr Fluskey had to finish it all for us.
Monsieur Fromage is one of those hole in the wall places that we would be too scared to go into without a recommendation. When we arrived it was full of solo diners for lunch, all chatting away. The speciality here is some and of chicken meat and chicken livers cooked over hot coal. These are served with two different kinds of stew, one white bean and one lentil.
I loved the liver skewer and felt indifferent about the chicken. It was nice enough. However, I didn’t love either of the stews. They were both Luke warm which didn’t help. Rachid asked which of the stews we liked better and we debated for a while. Both tasted similar but I preferred the texture of the lentil dish. It was like a tomato dahl.
Many years ago, on our first trip to Marrakesh, I remember reading about an alley full of tagine places that served rabbit. I was too nervous to go and so we skipped it. That is why I was so excited to visit during the tour.
We took a seat in an overflow section of the restaurant and in minutes a tagine of bubbling rabbit was presented to us in a puff of scented steam. Now, despite A Chef’s Tour asking if we had any dietary requirements, I hadn’t thought to mention my utter distaste for onion in all its many forms. The rabbit tagine was topped with rather a lot of onion so I picked my way through it. The rabbit tagine had a rich sauce and plenty of sharp green olives and salty, tangy preserved lemons to mix up each bite.Honestly I couldn’t have eaten much more any way, knowing that there were more food stops to come.
Should I stay or Escargot?
Don’t let snails scare you! They are really tasty. On all previous occasions eating snails, they have been slathered, dripping or bathing in garlic butter. Unusually, in Marrakesh, the snails are prepared in a spicy, peppery broth which makes them much lighter. We were served a small bowl and given a couple of toothpicks to extract the dark meat. I was a very happy girl dragging the reluctant snails from their stripy shells. I’m not sure Mr Fluskey was quite so convinced.
BessaraBissara, Beyssara or Beyssar – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
With bursting bellies we sat down to a bowl of bessara. This is Marrakesh’s most iconic street food, a thick soup packed with fava beans and tasting unusually like Heinz tomato soup?! It can be thicker as a dip or a little thinner as seen here as a soup
Bessara is known as the anytime soup. Moroccans enjoy it at all times of the day (as long as they have a good hour or so to prepare it). It is said to be good for all kinds of ailments too. Mind you, it’s much easier to just pop and grab a bowl from a nearby stall, which is what makes it such a popular street food.
We had a few bites but we were so full and knew that we would be eating our tanjirs shortly. Luckily, it was a bit of a walk to our last stop so we could work a little something off en route.
Tangia 3 – Tasting
It wouldn’t be a Moroccan food tour without a pot of tea so we were treated to some when we reached our last stop. I tried pouring the tea from on high, as it is often served but only managed about 15 cm before I panicked and put it back down again. A little practice required I think.
Then it was time for the main event, the reason we had resisted finished everything thus far; our tanjias!
Rachid and our waiter poured them out onto our waiting dishes and the meat plopped out followed by the thick, rich, spiced sauce. It was so delicious although I know I didn’t pick what went into it, and the hammam firemaster cooked it, I still felt a bit proud. It was an amazing end to the day and it kept us full all night…even after a few post tour cocktails.
Final Thoughts for Our Media Stories Marrakesh Food Tour
Come hungry! I know the website says so but you will leave stuffed enough that this is lunch and dinner. It starts in the afternoon so I would suggest having a late breakfast and pushing through until you start the tour. For the price, you are getting an astonishing amount of food. We are greedy and we didn’t finish it all!
Rachid was knowledgeable, funny and happy to chat throughout the tour about anything we asked. I felt like we left with a new friend rather than just a guide who was happy to wave us off.