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Couscous, Tagines and B’stillas!

It was always interesting to me when people named couscous as one of the most famous dishes of Morocco.  In my mind, couscous is a carb, similar to how you would eat rice, pasta or noodles and to have that be a national dish seemed kind of strange.  However, now that I’ve eaten my fair share of couscous, I realize that my perspective of couscous was very narrow and the name encompasses much more than just a carb dish.

On our first night, we made our way to La Perle du Sud, a restaurant near Jemaa el Fna, said to have a nice view for people watching.  We climbed to the third floor and was immediately impressed with the surroundings.  The restaurant was dimly lit and not very crowded, so we were able to grab a table right along the side, with a view of the street below.  We asked our waiter whether one order of chicken couscous would be enough for the two of us and he said it could be, but in reality we ended up having to order a beef tagine as well.  For some reason, the chicken couscous that we ordered also had beef in it as well.  We ended up coming here again near the end of our trip and ordered the chicken couscous one more time, but the second time around, there was no beef in it.

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The next morning, we weren’t quite satisfied with the breakfast from our riad, so we ventured out to have a quick meal at Café de France.  At that time, we didn’t realize that Moroccan breakfast was just a simple spread of jams and butter with a variety of bread.  We were served this at the riad and wanted something a bit more substantial, only to find the same menu at Café de France. 

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After some sightseeing, we were ready for more food.  This time we made our way through the Medina to Atay Cafe Food.  I had read some good reviews on this place and wanted to try it, but the location was quite a ways away for us, as we were in the southern part of Jemaa el Fna and this was located in the far north.  Nevertheless, we found our way there and at first, we thought it was empty as we didn’t see anyone sitting at the tables.  It turns out they had 4 levels and most people chose to sit higher up for the views.  We were brought to the highest level but it was an uncovered terrace and too hot for us.  We asked to go back down to the third level, which was shaded and had a nice breeze.  It was here that we tried b’stilla and a kefta tajine.

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During our short stay in Morocco, we also tried Harira, a hearty soup that is usually eaten at sunset to break the fast, and Brochette, skewers that were lightly seasoned and usually served with fries.  For me, the b’stilla left the biggest impression on me.  In my mind, I wasn’t quite understanding how a meat filled pastry could taste so good with cinnamon and sugar.  This sweet and savoury combination became one of my favourite meals.  I wish I had the chance to try the original pigeon b’stilla though.  I’m pretty sure all the ones I had were chicken.


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