Moroccan cooking is very popular in the Western world, especially Europe. It usually ranks in the top five of the most popular ethnic cuisines in countries such as France, Belgium, the U.K. and Germany. However, in the U.S., Moroccan cuisine is not yet familiar to many people. And, in large cities such as New York and Chicago, there are only a handful of Moroccan restaurants. A few prepared foods, such as sauces, condiments, herbs and spice mixes are sold in America, and they mostly are found in ethnic and specialty stores.
Although Moroccan cooking is influenced by many culinary traditions, Arab, French and Spanish cuisines have had the biggest impact on ingredients usage and cooking techniques.
Like in most cultures, the Moroccan housewife usually does the grocery shopping and makes most of the meals at home. In a typical Moroccan house, the kitchen would be stocked with lentils, chickpeas, dried fruits (such as dates), dried nuts, vegetables and fruits, non-salted butter, skimmed milk powder, fresh apples, fresh pears, mutton, frozen and halal-style beef (bone in), popcorn, candy, honey (during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan), wine and beer (with restrictions for Muslims) and cereal.
With about 55% of the Moroccan population under the age of 25, many of the young household wives and young families are adapting to Westernized, quick and convenient cooking methods. On the other hand, some young American chefs in large urban cities are experimenting with Moroccan cooking. And the gourmet cooks and food lovers in America are snatching Moroccan products off the store shelves. At the upscale kitchen retail chain, Sur La Table (Seattle), sales continue to increase with the tagine, a Moroccan-style slow-cooker used to cook vegetables, poultry, lamb, beef and seafood dishes.
At Trader Joe's (Monrovia, Calif.), there is a Moroccan Tagine Simmer Sauce, made of tomatoes, onions, green olives, green peppers, raisin paste, red vinegar, pimientos, sea salt, parsley, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, black pepper, crushed red pepper, paprika, cinnamon, bay leaves and saffron. The sauce can be used as a cooking sauce for poultry, fish or tofu (vegetarian). Or, it can be used as a finishing sauce for pasta, such as couscous, which is widely eaten throughout Morocco almost everyday.
Whole Foods Market (Austin, Texas) has a favorite Moroccan Lamb Stew recipe posted on its website. The recipe calls for dried apricots, parsnips, chickpeas, onions, carrots, lamb, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, chicken broth, tomato sauce, cilantro and lemon juice.
One popular website, www.chefshop.com, features a page of imported Moroccan condiments such as:
Perona Farms (Eden Prairie, Minn.) is an 80-year-old salmon processing business that has surpassed many of its competitors by creating a line of exotically flavored, smoked salmon products.
The uniquely spiced salmon products include Moroccan-style salmon (certified kosher), which consists of smoked salmon finished with a mixture of honey, rice wine vinegar, curry and a combination of 16 herbs and spices. Other flavored products include Ming Tsai Tea Rubbed Smoked Salmon, which is smoked salmon finished with celebrity chef Ming Tsai's Tea Rub. The Pastrami Style Salmon consists of smoked salmon finished with molasses, black pepper, coriander, cayenne pepper and paprika.
After visiting 14 U.S. cities, Hadji Mohamad chose Chicago as the site for his establishment, Andalous Authentic Moroccan Cuisine. His wife, Rachida Hamoudan, is the chef. He says, “We want to educate and show our customers what to expect when they eat Moroccan cuisine at our restaurant, just in case they ever decide to visit Morocco. We make all of our sauces, lemon preserves and condiments from scratch. Only herbs, spices and a few pieces of equipment are shipped from Morocco--everything else, we make at our restaurant.”
Allal Ezzabdi, the general manager of the restaurant, says, “Moroccan cooking has been influenced by so many different people, cultures and countries. Our menu items are very authentic and our entire staff is from Morocco.”
Moroccan meals usually start off with some sweet, warm herbal tea. That is followed by a bowl of Harira soup, made with vegetable consommé simmered with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chickpeas, vermicelli pasta and a Moroccan blend of herbs. Harira soup is considered a national Moroccan starter. No meal is considered complete without it.
Fes Tagine, made up of braised lamb shanks, onions, and dry prunes, is served with toasted almonds, sesame seeds and hard-boiled eggs.
Both of these foods, Harira soup and Fes Tagine, lead to great product ideas for the retail market, in frozen packaging or in a canned form.