You don’t need to be Bogart or Bergman to find something magical in Morocco. It’s a country primed to amaze the senses—each sight, smell, sound, and taste you encounter is more awe-inspiring than the last. But if a trip to the northern tip of Africa is still sitting on your proverbial bucket list, no need to fret. Let your taste buds start the exploring by cooking and sampling the utterly unique cuisine of Morocco.
“Moroccan food is an adventure on your table,” says Paula Wolfert, author of The Food of Morocco ($45, amazon.com). “It’s a different way of eating with different flavor combinations, including sweet and savory spices. It’s so different than any other food you’ll experience [in the Mediterranean].” And food is not something taken lightly by the people of Morocco. “Traditionally, everything is shared from the same pot, and there are no individual plates,” says Mourad Lahlou, author of Mourad: New Moroccan ($40, amazon.com) and chef/owner of Aziza in San Francisco. “To Moroccans, food means a lot more than just something you put into your body to get you through the day. It’s a huge part of life, and it brings people together.”
That reverence for all things edible is evident in the distinctive methods Moroccans have developed over the past thousand years for maximizing their available ingredients and infusing as much flavor as possible into every single bite. Vegetables, starches, and meats aren’t cooked separately—everything is cooked together to extract as much flavor as possible. “It’s all about layered flavors,” Lahlou says. “Moroccans build layer after layer of flavor, and their biggest arsenal is spices. The way you use them and the portions you use determine the flavor profile you’ll get.”