Thursday, January 13, 2011
Marrakech Night Markets, stall no. 14
We had a close call at the Fez train station with Io & H unable to find their passports the morning we are departing for Marrakech ... So with taxi's back to the riad, and turning the room upside down, all 4 of us are now in possession of travel documents and manage to board our train in the nick of time. It's a hot day, the train winding through little villages with children playing, sheep running free and so much trash on the outskirts of each town. We keep ourselves amused with some interesting conversation, some amazing pomegranite juice & chicken sandwiches on board the train as well as sneaking in a little nap. Before we know it, hours have passed and we arrive in Marrakech. We are greeted at the train station and transported to our Riad Dar Tasnime. Now after any amount of travelling, there are 2 things very high on the priority list; shower & eat. We are taken up to our suite which smells of orange blossom, and is the warm welcoming color of terracotta with rich fabrics and open doors sprawling out over the courtyard.
Ah, I could just collapse on the bed and be done with day. *"~Focus, shower & eat. So back on track we ask our delightful host if he has any dinner recommendations or suggestions at the night markets. Immediately we start talking about what food we will find down there, what food we had been enjoying in Fes, our time in Morocco, our home and it's food in Japan .... Our host then shares one of his little secrets, a bustling little stall amongst the 100 or so open-aired kitchens that serves up some incredible fried fish & seafood with salads and bread. We make our way towards the Jemaa El Fna square, which is the largest outdoor souk (market) in Morocco. It's just on sunset, and there are performers, snake charmers, henna artists, games & live music. The outside of the square in lined with carts selling fresh squeezed juice and all sorts of dried fruits, and then east side which is full of these little outdoor stalls setting up for tonight's dinner.
As we first enter the markets, we pass through a gathering of stalls all selling steamed snails. We then enter the mayhem, stalls with printed fancy menus, displays on ice of giant shiskebabs and mock terrines, and young boys who will say or do just about anything to have you come and eat at their stall "Stall no. 7 will send you to heaven" We are determined to find this stall no. 14 but there is absolutely no system with these numbers. We turn a corner and notice a tiny little stand, full of locals, chowing down on all sorts of delicious looking treats. And then we spot the no. 14 sign. Ahah, perfect. No young boys drawing you in, no menu, no food on display, except for the piles of fried fish that are getting distributed as fast as they can be cooked ....
A spot is cleared for us, and paper placemats plonked in front of us topped with a bread roll & a plate of chips. Then little dishes of a fresh tomato sauce, and a plate of smashed up & seasoned fried eggplant. No cutlery is provided, the tools of choice here are your fingers as well as the bread to scoop up any sauces.
Thankful for Ioanna's ability with the French language we just start ordering ... Fried chunk of fish, sitting on a plastic plate with a single fried chili & a wedge of lemon. The exterior was so crispy yet encased the most tender & moist fish flesh imaginable.
Fried calamari rings set a new standard for these fried favorites. The coating was seasoned so well, yet had no overpowering flavors. A good squeeze of lemon was all they needed, tasting fresh like the ocean.
Then we had some MFF, Moroccan Fried Fish. Bite sized pieces of coated fish, yum yum!
We see a tray of little whiting fish come out of the fryer, and rely on the old point & nod trick. We finish with these little fishies, this time with a squeeze of fresh lime.
We are quick to vacate our precious seats, as there is still a que of people waiting for their chance at a seat. There a little sink where you wash your hands, before being handed a sheet of placemat paper to dry them. We then pay the very modest bill coming in at around 12€ per / person.
Getting a glimpse of the little mobile kitchen as we leave is quite a site ... vats of scalding hot oil balance on rickety legged tables, makeshift sinks / benches and storage are showing ware from daily assembling and disassembling. But the fresh ingredients and team work shines.
We know we will be paying at least another visit to no. 14 on this trip .... Now, back to the Riad to collapse in bed.