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Fes and its medieval culinary heritage

History and food are an inseparable combination. One modifies the other, brings out its peculiar aspects, and modifies people's culture. We are in Fes, one of Morocco's oldest and most fascinating cities and considered the country's cultural and spiritual capital, as well as its gastronomic capital. Its cuisine is the result of centuries of encounters and exchanges between different peoples and cultures, which have left their mark in the variety and richness of its dishes.

The medina of Fes is certainly among the most iconic places: a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, where one breathes an atmosphere of times gone by. Here are ancient palaces, mosques, Koranic schools, fountains and markets. Of these, the best known is the souk, the traditional market where one can admire and buy a wide variety of typical products, such as spices, dried fruits, meat, fish, sweets and handicrafts. What at first glance may seem like a place devoted to tourism is in truth still a beating heart of the city where commerce is the real soul.

It is mainly Arab, Berber, Andalusian, and French influences that define the cuisine of Fes. Here even religion determines some dishes and recipes with the use of selected meats that meet the needs of the believing population.

Imagine learning to cook dishes that date back to the 13th-14th centuries, when Fes was one of the capitals of the Islamic world and an important cultural and commercial center. These dishes are characterized by the abundant use of spices, herbs, dried fruits, and honey, which give the food a flavor tending toward sweet and sour. Among the most commonly used spices are cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, saffron, and coriander. Herbs include mint, parsley, fresh cilantro and dill. Dried fruits include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and dates.

The market streets are the ideal place to buy these products before entering the private kitchen of those who offer their knowledge for an immersive experience in the aromas of Fes cuisine.

You learn techniques and the secrets of preparing dishes, but also have an authentic experience starting with a visit to the souk while choosing the best ingredients for recipes to cook.

Enter a traditional house or riad, a typical Moroccan dwelling with an interior courtyard.

Start cooking wheat semolina steamed and topped with vegetables, meat or fish. Or tajine, the stew of meat or fish with vegetables and dried fruits, cooked slowly in an earthenware pot with a cone-shaped lid. Both dishes are flavored with spices and herbs.

But the cuisine of Fes is not limited to these two dishes: there is much more such as pastilla, a pastry filled with chicken or pigeon meat, almonds, sugar, and cinnamon; harira, a thick soup of legumes, vegetables, and meat; mèchoui, a whole lamb roasted over charcoal; tanjia, a beef slowly cooked in an earthenware pot with spices and lemon; and almond desserts such as gazelle horns or ghriba.

Have you ever walked the streets of a souk? What ingredient do you think can never be missing from your pantry? And in that of a Moroccan kitchen?

Share your thoughts and click here for more information


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