As the daughter of two Moroccan parents, I was lucky to benefit from a wonderfully warm and family-oriented culture. The primary elements in Moroccan tradition and the source of its pride and joy lies in its food and obsession for feeding people (no complaints here). Moroccan Jews were the largest of the Jewish communities in North Africa that immigrated to Israel. As a result, they brought with them their most cherished cultural treasure. My childhood memories are full with my mom’s everyday cooking as well as constant battles with my elderly aunts who were very keen on overfeeding me (till this day actually).
In the spirit of great appreciation for this beautiful culture, I listed below my top 5 childhood favorites from my mother’s kitchen Israelis are obsessed with. Guaranteed, you will be too 🙂
As far as I’m concerned, the signature dish of any true Moroccan household is the Moroccan fish. There was no Shabbat dinner I can remember that did not include this heaven on a plate. The fish is cooked in thick red and often spicy sauce made with at least 3 types of peppers, garlic, cilantro, and a robust variety of Moroccan spices. It’s one of those dishes you dive into that’s impossible to stop eating. By far it’s my number 1 go-to delicacy you must try!
Many of you know Couscous as tiny pasta flakes made of wheat or barley. Frankly? When I discovered this, I was completely shocked! The Moroccan version is nothing like the Western version of it. Couscous was (and still is) a staple in my family’s house that’s prepared nearly weekly. It’s a dish made with a base of spice-infused steamed semolina flour, topped with vegetable chicken soup or sweet Tansia (see below #3). Couscous is probably an all-time favorite of the children in my family and adults alike. It’s a classic culinary delight for everyday after-school lunch.
There’s no better dish to represent the sweet side of the spicy Moroccan cuisine other than the Tansia! Tansia is this thick sweet dish made of dried fruits like figs, plums, raisins, dates, apricots, and an assortment of nuts. Many time it’s served with beef or lamb with a side of rice or couscous. Usually, this is a typical festive dish we’d have for Rosh Hashana or Tu B’Shvat.
The beef’s head meat, also known as beef cheek, is probably the leading delicacy (alongside the Moroccan fish) in my mom’s kitchen. It’s a rich and soft meet dish that just effortlessly melts in your mouth. It’s typically slowly cooked for a couple hours, then bathed in wonderfully seasoned tomato sauce and garbanzo beans. You can have it topped on rice or any kind of carb you like. If you had yet to try this sensory expedition, you’re in for a real treat!
In Morocco, Haria is considered “the soup of soups”. It’s a classic Moroccan stew, rich with tomato, lentils, chickpeas, and beef. Given its Arabic roots, Harira is particularly popular during the Ramadan’s breaks. But, Moroccan Jews adopted this dish as a staple in their kitchen as well. From my personal experience, Harira was deliciously served during cold winter evenings as the entire family gathered around the kitchen table in anticipation. My mom would make Harira in huge bulks resulting in regular guests coming over especially for this soup. If you ever wanted a feeling of home, Harira will definitely embrace you with warmth. Finally, in my opinion, Harira is probably a metaphysical proof that true love REALLY does exist.
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