Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Fantastic Street Food of Fez

Serhua Toh writes and takes photographs for a wonderful blog called

While it is unusual to find more than a cursory description of the fine street food of the Fez Medina, Serhua has done such a wonderful job - you can almost taste the food! What is amazing about Serhua's blog is that as a 23 year old student she has managed to trave the world doing what she likes most... as she says "It just dawned on me one day that this is what I would love to do. Writing, and documenting my thoughts regarding all the great (mostly food) places I've been to. All over the world. I'm not quite all over the world yet, but since I was living in Hong Kong over the summer, I thought it was a good time to start. Since then, I've returned to Singapore, and embarked on countless other adventures: Thailand, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Croatia, UK, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Austria, Greece, Eastern Europe, and more. Hopefully it never ends."

The View from Fez  has culinary pleasure in presenting Serhua's guest contribution; a photo essay on the fantastic street food of Fez.

Moroccan mint tea

Street food in Morocco is a dizzy affair. At once familiar and exotic, the subtle twists that made certain dishes completely different really blew me away. We spent three days in Fez, (and two in Marrakech), but I suspect we have barely scratched the surface of Moroccan street fare. Each morning, we would begin our day at a completely local joint for mint tea and coffee. 

Tasting coffee all over the world is one of my favourite travel to-do, even if I can't put a finger on the differences sometimes. The moroccan mint tea, a local favourite, was both soothing and refreshing. It may look a tad intimidating and unpolished, but it really wasn't as overpowering as it looked - Mint tea in Morocco is made using brewed green tea as the base, so mint leaves are only thrown in at the last moment. Note of caution: Steeping the mint leaves for more than two minutes may cause acid reflux!

The hole-in-the-wall bakery

The Secret Bakery

This unassuming hole in the wall bakery was one of our greatest discoveries in Fez. They seemed to be always churning out freshly baked pastries throughout the day, and we couldn't resist buying a few to try each time. We went back so often, the owners began recognising us! Everything tasted wonderful (especially fresh from the oven), but we were particularly partial to the chewy dates pastry and heavenly cream puffs drenched in chocolate! I can't praise this gem enough.

Date pastry and cream puff 

Moroccan Pancakes and Breads

Instead of going for Beghrir, the classic Moroccan pancakes (second from the left in the photo above), we tried out something I still haven't been able to identify (help, anyone?) - what looks to me like a charred rice pancake which we had with Moroccan butter and honey.

I must say, even though the pancake itself was a little dry and tasteless, the combination of fillings was wicked! Msemen (bottom left in the first picture) is a cousin of the Indian prata and is definitely a must try as well. If the riad you're staying at serves that for breakfast, count your blessings and eat your fill. If they don't, try to get freshly pan-fried ones, not those pre-cooked and stacked up as pictured. They go best with Moroccan butter!

Moroccan Yoghurt and Exotic Juices

After passing by this stall that sold refrigerated white drinks a couple of times, our curiosity finally got the better of us and we approached the lovely stall owners to ask what those white drinks in glasses were. "Raib - home-made yoghurt", they said. We were sold. It had the familiar taste of sweetened yoghurt but the consistency was less that of commercial smoothness and closer to that of a milkshake (reminiscent of India's lassi). Totally delicious!

All sorts of juices were available along the streets too. We had raisin juice and pistachio juice, among others. Isn't it interesting that they use raisins instead of fresh grapes? It looked so thick and the idea of raisins crushed into juice was so unnatural that I felt gutsy just for trying. The taste was certainly unique - much lighter than I'd imagined, surprisingly refreshing and intensely sweet. Pistachio juice was an equally surprising beverage - I never knew juices could be made from nuts and still taste this light and refreshing. Really interesting juices, though I'd have the yoghurt over these any day.

Homemade yogurt

The Unapologetically Addictive Sidekick - Spicy Vermicelli

Snack AMINE sold a mean fried chicken. I was walking by the stall when the aroma of fried chicken and grilled meat stopped me in my tracks. A closer glance at what the locals were eating had me point at the fried chicken, and my friends and I have been fans ever since. It wasn't so much the chicken (though it was undeniably tasty, for sure), nor the fries. Instead, it was the inconspicuous noodles tucked beneath the chicken (you can see a glimpse of it in the picture, just beside the chicken on the left) - an orange-tinged seasoned rice vermicelli (bee hoon). Unassuming but so unapologetically addictive. The spicy, salty and sour flavour combination really kept us wanting more! I sincerely hope that one day, I'll find out exactly what they call this noodle and get a copy of its recipe.

Khobz (Flat Bread) with Fried Liver, anyone?

Khobz (flat bread) laced with all sorts of fillings (beef, chicken, etc) can be found almost everywhere in Morocco. We had a few of the beef ones when we were hungry - they were tasty, but hardly a revelation. Then one day we saw this stall completely enveloped by locals. When we closed in to "investigate", I was immediately intrigued. The three stall owners were operating like a single machine - two of them deep frying slices of livers, sunshine eggs, green chilli and potato cakes, while the other assembles the sandwich, slitting the middle of the Khobz to form a pocket, then stuffing it with freshly fried liver and additional fillings. I think I might have drooled a little. Alas, by the time the queue reached me, the fried livers were sold out and I had Ma'Quoda (potato puffs) in my Khobz instead. Tasty, yes, but not what I really needed to try. So I came back the next day and finally laid my hands on the fried liver sandwich! Had some fried green chilli to go with it too. The strong, distinct liver flavour punctuated with sharp, bright notes from the green chilli and a slight, sour tang from the red chilli sauce - just brilliant.

The View from Fez would like to thank Cravings and Wanderlust for sharing!  
Visit Cravings and Wanderlust for a giddy food safari around the world. 



Anonymous said...

If there's anything to be said about food, it's first and foremost a "cultural" thing.
How can one explain "mint pudding"? I cannot fathom the reasons behind such a "delicacy". It is, and will always be, a British "thing".
On the same note, how can one even bear to bring "khli3" (The "3" in "khli3" is a place holder for a guttural sound that only exists in Arabic and other Semitic languages) within a foot of one's nose, let alone one's mouth?
It must be a Moroccan "thing".
I wanted to think you for bringing past memories of my youth in Moroccan souks, where these street foods were, and still are, bountiful.
The major problem with such foods is that one must have a stomach well versed in local germs and other bugs that are a common fixture in the back alleys of Morocco.
Failure to be hospitable to these bugs and germs will move you at the speed of light to the nearest WC, if you're lucky enough to find one, to only find that diarrhea has struck once more.
Locals, understand Moroccans, jokingly refer to it "tourista". Which basically means it's an ailment suffered mostly by innocent tourists that have the audacity to try out some of the street foods.

Anonymous said...

The bread, because that's what it is, that looks like a charred rice pancake, is actually bread from barley rather than wheat.
It is coarsely ground for a reason. It helps one digest it over an extensive period of time. Thus providing one with a slow, but steady, source of energy.
This type of bread is extremely rare these days. It is an old recipe from the days when wheat and barley were ground by hand using only one stone that is rotating on top of another one and moved thanks to a handle stuck in the upper stone. In those days, one does not get as fine flour as one can expect in modern times with mechanized tools.
Besides these health and ecological benefits, remember that no gas or electricity were used up to power these manual tools, it simply tastes terrific, and it will keep you going all day long.
One last, but not least, benefit, you get tons of fiber from these traditional breads.

Fatima Zohra said...

What a very fine contribution. You should ask her to stay in Morocco and write for you! My lecturer at university was reading the post in the staff room and had to go out and get food as the photos made him hungry. Well done... and keep up the great blog.