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At the Djemma el Fna, you'll get to witness the snake charmers, fortune-tellers, dancing monkeys, women wooing other women into getting henna tattoos, medicine men, games, and even a tooth doctor selling teeth (?) or providing consultation. Besides all the crazy action, eating at the food stalls in the Djemma el Fna is a must to experience fully the Moroccan culture and taste.
But be prepared for those hardsellers who try to compete with one another to get you to eat at their stall: "Finger-licking good!!!" they shout. Like Medusa, these food hawkers will try to lure you in with their eye contact, but the intoxicating aroma of grilled meats and deliciousness is what eventually draws us in. Walk around to all the stalls and figure out what you like. It may be overwhelming at first, but eat where the locals eat and follow their lead.
Glasses of mint leaves and huge sugar cubes waiting for the hot water for tea.
Snails anyone??? We couldn't muster up the courage to try these just yet.
Upon the recommendation of our Riad manager and the apparent long lines at Stall #14, we decided this was the our spot. We all sat very, very close to one another since they try to seat as many people as they can. Eating in the Djemma el Fna food stalls is not a place where the claustrophobic would feel comfortable. We enjoyed #14 so much that we ended up eating here two nights in a row.
Everything is made right before your eyes. They first flour the fish and calamari and then place them in the oil until they come out crispy, deep golden pieces of deliciousness.Fried whole fish, chunks of fish flesh, calamari rings, and fresh fried french fries are the specialty of Food Stall #14.
Khobz (1DH) and Salsa (4DH)
As with all Moroccan restaurants, the traditional khobz is served with pretty much all meals. #14 also gave us a plate of crushed tomatoes and spices. Very similar to salsa, that is to be eaten with the fish and calamari.
French Fries (4DH)
The french fries or should I say Moroccan fries were delicious. The fries were made with 100% all natural potatoes that were cut, deep fried, and then salted.
Fried Fish (14DH)
At #14, you have the choice of either small whole fried fish or chunks of pure fish. Not wanting to deal with bones and digging through the fish, we went with the fried fish chunks. With a squeeze of lemon and a bit of salsa, these fried pieces of fish were absolutely delicious!! Perfectly cooked to a golden brown, the fish was still moist and not dried out.
Fried Calamari (25DH)
The calamari were equally as delicious as the fish. Like the fish, the calamari was perfectly cooked and texturally, was spot on. None of this rubber band, super chewy calamari at this stand.
Following the tried and true technique of eat where the locals eat,we ended up choosing #31 as our next culinary destination. #31 had smoke and flames that both visually and aromatically lured us in.
Stall #31 specializes in grilled meats. We saw that most people at this food stall were ordering these little merguez style sausages on the link. Guess what we did?? Each order of sausages comes with khobz and the salsa like sauce. The sausages had a nice smokey smell and flavor from the grill and were very well seasoned. Not sure what kind of meat these sausages were, could have been lamb. These little sausages had a nice snap to them because of the natural casings.
Here is a closeup shot of the sausages in all their glory. As you can see from the picture these were definitely not lean or fat free sausages. The locals would use their hands (the right hand, not the left) to use the khobz to sop up the fat and juices from the sausages. Do as the locals do.
#5 known for its Harira soup which is the traditional soup of Morocco. The soup is typically eaten year around but is especially eaten during dinner in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and also served after special occasions. (Thanks Wikipedia).
Harira is typically made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and an assortment of herbs and spices. The Harira is slightly thickened with some type of flour. The soup is slightly hearty due to the beans and the thickness of the soup. The tomatoes and other spices give the soup a nice depth to it. My only complaint was that the soup was slightly underseasoned. Luckily, the soup comes with a little bowl of salt.
One of our favorite experiences and treats was the extremely inexpensive and satisfying orange juice carts. There were tons of carts serving refreshing, freshly squeezed OJ. Drinking the sweet juice was one of the most satisfying experiences because it was so hot in Marrakech. And for only 30 cents, who could beat that. And I must add that the guy serving us was overqualified (looks-wise). Anyway, after you're done drinking the great OJ, you set the glass back and can't help but breathe out a sigh of satisfaction and smile. [Note: Not sure how thoroughly they clean the glasses, but it was worth it].
Eating at the food stalls was one of our favorite experiences on the trip. During the day, the Djemma el Fna is a wide open space, but at night this wide open space becomes the culinary and social epicenter of Marrakech. This is one experience that is not to be missed!