In August of 2014, I went to Marrakesh for the first time. I was very excited to go because I have never been to the Africa before.
Before going to Marrakesh I have a short list in my head of what I wanted to do in the three short days I was there. One of which was to have an authentic Tagine served in its traditional pot made of terracotta where the dish was cooked. One evening while shopping at the medina, I grew hungry after a day of not having any lunch. I was haggling for bargains, me and my travel companion when we decided to stop at a small hole-in-the wall type restaurant located in one of the smaller squares within the market. Marrakesh is often visited by European travelers most restaurants would have menus written in English available and most servers speak fairly good English. Upon reading the menu, I immediately started to look for the tagine.
The restaurant offers a variety of them, but I opted to go for the classic chicken tagine. I wanted to see and taste what the traditional tagine was like before I start experimenting on the other varieties. Just as I expected, it was served in a traditional eight-inch terracotta clay pot complete with a cone lid where the dish was cooked. When the lid was opened for me, I immediately saw chicken drumsticks with sliced of green olives, pickled lemon wedges swimming in a combination of juices and fat from the chicken and what may have been olive oil. To the average person the greasiness of the dish served may have been a turn off. I know I was a bit surprised and dismayed when I first saw it. But when I had my first bite, I quickly realized it was better than it looks. As I tear the drumsticks apart, it started releasing steam, a sure sign that the tagine just came out of the fire. I continued gobbling the dish not realizing how hungry I was that I didn’t even notice grease dripping down my fork and my fingers. But there was something about having a local dish from the place of its origins than going to a restaurant at your hometown that claims to serve the authentic tagine.
There are Moroccan restaurants in Silicon Valley but none of serious note. It may have been greasy but it tasted like I was truly in a different place, in a different part of the world completely unfamiliar to me. Maybe it’s the flavor of the tagine. When was the last time you had pickled lemon wedges? The ambience of the restaurant perhaps contributed to that feeling. It was not overly decorated with modern décor. The restaurant was completely unpretentious, very simple and modest. Or perhaps it was where we were seating, our table was towards the front of an open-style restaurant facing this small square watching vendors and customers stretch their bargaining skills to the limited. Or perhaps it was a warm summer evening in Marrakesh. Whatever it was, there’s something about that tagine that gave me a very good feeling about it. I felt I was in a different place far away from home and I liked it. I liked it very much. Not all local delicacies can do that to a visitor.