Despite the image of a mysterious old place full of melancholy and exotic sensuality that comes to mind if you're familiar with the name from the classic Bogart movie, Casablanca is anything but stuck in the past when it comes to the food scene. As the second-largest city in the Maghreb, it has always harbored people and tastes from cultures all over the world as a trading hub and travel checkpoint.
The French influence is still felt here since the times of the protectorate, yet the local appetites have always remained the same, thus enriching the palette of refugees and visitors. The result is a delicious mishmash of the Asian, Spanish, and Italian locales along with the more intriguing and lesser-known gems of Arabic cuisine. Here, you can check out some of the gastronomical highlights for Casablanca and be prepared to enjoy its essential dishes in the future.
It was only natural for Casablanca to develop its own culture of consuming seafood. A place on the edge of the ocean has always enjoyed an abundance of ways the local and European chefs to bake, grill, sauté, broil, grill, steam, and otherwise prepare the fish along with a variety of more exotic seafood offerings. A curious explorer may find everything from grilled and fried line fish to prawns, oysters, and lobster. But the magic truly happens if you choose to try a traditional marinade of herbs and spices called chermoula. This is best combined with a whole fish grilled over coals of fried the old-fashioned way. Better yet, the restaurant serving fish almost always has a vegetarian option for healthy and ethical dining.
Out top choice for seafood in Casablanca would be the aptly French-sounding Port de Pêche. It's easy to get to and offers a nice ambiance while you're enjoying your meal.
The tajine is a traditional dish of Moroccan cuisine. It is a stew of vegetables and meat slowly cooked in a conical-shaped container. As a result, the food gets soft and tasty and positively melts in the mouth.
Casablanca has always been famous for its authentic tajines, the slow-cooked savory stews with beef, chicken, lamb, etc. This meal, though exotic to an American or European visitor, has been known in the Arabic world since the time of the legendary Harun al-Rashid. The name refers to both the cooking pot and its traditional broth made in several ways, the classic requiring lubricating the pot with clarified butter and adding ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, or saffron. However, today the most popular way to make tajine is to place the ingredients in olive oil.
To get the best tajine in Casablanca, you can always visit Le Riad, a place most welcoming to tourists and people who wish to enrich their gastronomical knowledge with Moroccan food.
Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup that is extremely popular during the month of Ramadan. The dish consists of dried legumes like lentils, tomatoes, and chickpeas. The addition of fresh herbs and warm spices like salt, pepper, mint leaves, and cinnamon makes the soup flavorful and hearty.
With a simple name like "harira" it's no wonder that the soup itself is pretty basic at first glance. It is a herb-rich, tomato-based soup that looks more like cream. Its utilitarian nature is explained by tradition. Harira is the first meal Moroccans eat after fasting during the month of Ramadan. The best way to eat harira is with dates, figs, coffee, or milk, along with fried honey cookies. Local restaurants offer a variety of recipes, including the ones with lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas, tomato sauce, harissa paste, and fresh herbs.
The go-to place for traditional food, including harira, would be La Sqala, one of the most popular spots with excellent service and a great diversity found in their menu.
It's an authentic no-bake Italian dessert with a coffee flavor. It means 'cheer me up' because of the two caffeine-containing ingredients - coffee and cocoa. Tiramisu is made from espresso-dipped ladyfingers and mascarpone cream.
Despite being more popular globally than the aforementioned tajine or harira, in addition to not being nearly that old, tiramisu is a stable of Casablanca's food scene due to the influences from other corners of the Earth. The coffee-flavored dessert originating from modern Italy is a nice break from the exploration of local cuisine, and it can be found and enjoyed by anyone. Casablanca has some of the nicest tiramisus on its side of the ocean, with classic recipes and experiments that modified the dish over time. Any kind of cream, tipping, and additions to the classic eggs, cocoa, and cheese formula can be found.
The first spot that comes to mind for some quality tiramisu is Boccaccio. It's quiet and offers great drinks to accompany the dessert.
Zaalouk is a Moroccan salad prepared with eggplants, tomato sauce, and spices. It is typically served warm or at room temperature as a side dish.
Salads and vegetable combinations are nothing new in Casablanca. The most traditionally Moroccan is zaalouk, a salad primarily made of grilled eggplant blended with cooked tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and coriander. it also goes wonderfully with a side of msemen flatbread, which helps combine it with other dishes as a spread. Combining food is always a fun way to diversify your trip, even if it's not the most authentic approach. However, should you eat zaalouk with something else, it should probably be grilled meat and fish.
Dar Filali is a Casablanca restaurant with a particularly good zaalouk. It helps that the rather old-fashioned feel of the place sets the proper mood.
Bastilla is a traditional Moroccan dish often served on festive occasions. It is a savory-sweet meat pie made with chicken meat, onions, dried fruits, eggs and spices. These ingredients are wrapped in several sheets of filo dough and then are dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Spanish influence on Casablanca is not as strong or lasting as the French one, but one thing that came out of their shared history and proved to be great is pastilla. Sometimes also called bastilla, this is essentially a parcel made from sheets of paper-thin werqa dough and filled with meat. In the old times, the meat usually belonged to a pigeon, but today, beef and chicken are the most common ingredients. Pastilla is served as a sweet part of the meal and can be served as a heavier dessert. The most common icings are sugar, cinnamon, and nuts.
The self-explanatory Qasr El Bastila offers all kinds of flavours and recipes for even the most gourmet tastes.
Doughnuts are sweet ring-shaped treats that are typically made with flour dough and then deep-fried. These sweet round snacks can also be coated in sugar, chocolate, or maple glazing.
While we're on the topic of sugary foods, sfenji is the local version of a doughnut. Well, not really. They are fritter-like pastries are made from unleavened, unsweetened dough and rolled into rings. The result is fried and served with tea. The sweetness on the inside and the crispiness on the inside give sfenji a more rough and exotic feel than that of the modern doughnuts.
As for quick tips from the local food scene, Chfinja MASTERS is the obvious choice. Small, cute, and satisfactory.
Tender and so packed with flavour, Moroccan roast lamb is a national North African dish made of lamb, pumpkin, raisins, and apple. The ingredients are slow cooked into a stew that is then served with couscous.
Getting back to the classics, let's talk about the famous Moroccan lamb. It's the kind of meat that goes well with tajine but can also be enjoyed on its own. Cooked with spices and sauces or processed raw, Moroccan lamb is both a great ingredient and a meal to enjoy while you're visiting. One other advantage is that the lamb is prepared quickly and doesn't require a lot of waiting. So, if you're traveling and want a quick but satiating dish, try the lamb.
If you wish to combine quick lamb eating with a great view, try Le Cabestan. The atmosphere is as relaxing as the food.
Couscous is a national dish of Morocco. Though it is typically thought of as a grain, couscous is actually made with tiny steamed granules of durum wheat semolina. The dish is usually served with meat, spicy stews, and vegetables.
Moving away from the more heavy foods, couscous is a noteworthy part of the local food scene, as it is both universally tasty and sufficiently healthy. Casablanca offers lots of modifications of the standard couscous recipe, adding meat, spices, sauces, and pretty much anything that will not take away from the taste. You can find restaurants offering bulgur wheat, pearl millet, and sorghum as the basis of couscous.
A particular trick is to find couscous that is handmade and not using mechanically produced grain. We recommend L'Etoile Centrale for a more classy experience.
Refreshing and soothing, mint tea is Morocco's national drink. The beverage is prepared with Gunpowder tea, fresh mint leaves, and sugar.
After possible trying all the dishes tasted above during the day, the best way to finish it is by drinking some of the best mint tea you can find. The locals are very particular about their drinks, and tea is no exception. In Casablanca, drinking some mint tea is a common way to relax and replace regular water or something stronger. Different types and flavors of mint suit the history and the nature of the city. The fact that all around the world many people prefer Casablanca mint tea speaks for itself.
You can find mint tea that feels the best in almost any local restaurant. Ifrane is a good option. There are lots of sweets and side dishes to accompany the tea.
Casablanca offers a lot of options for having a great time, both aesthetically and gastronomically. Enjoy the place as much as you can.