Somewhere along the labyrinthine alleys of the Old Medina and souks in Fes and Marrakesh are the displayed piles of the aromatic spices Morocco is known for. With their strong scents and vibrant colors bounded by the souk tents, the Moroccan spice blend remains as one of their cultural secrets since these are combinations that cannot be easily replicated. These blends, which can use from 10 to 100 spices, are called the ras el hanout, and they are the reason behind the cuisine’s very own signature taste.
Ras El Hanout
The name’s direct translation from Arabic is “head of the shop,” which means it’s the specialty of the store, and it has been a part of the cuisine for the longest time. Dishes might not even be considered Moroccan without a pinch of the famed ras el hanout.
Any spice hound with divine love for exploration would be familiar with the ras el hanout and might find it’s a cinch to point out the spices when in the Old Medina, but to assume making your own is easy, is a common rookie mistake. The blending, in and of itself, is an art, which is what makes the ras el hanout a “wonder spice.” Not only does it enhance flavoring to a whole new level, even just with a pinch, but it also gives the body a warm feeling that improves blood circulation.
Although some may play it off as hype and that it can be achievable through culinary expertise, what most foreigners aren’t aware of is how the ras el hanout vendors guard their secrets. History speaks of some additional ingredients being banned from inclusion, and some of these are the desiccated remains of the Spanish fly and the Emerald Green Beetle, which are known aphrodisiacs.Spice Lineup
Moroccans are a fan of spice because they have a belief in the importance of keeping the body warm, which is in contrast to other cultures that prefer cold food. Given that their secret blends have quite the line-up of spices included, their top four essential would be salt, black and white pepper, dried ginger root, and turmeric.
However, these times no longer warrant people to buy all the spices and take a pinch of each when making their ras el hanout. Now, Moroccans and foreigners prefer purchasing the ready-made mixes, which take the traditional style or the organic blend.
Here are the other spices and herbs commonly used in Moroccan cooking:
- Cinnamon bark
- Star anise
- Garlic cloves
- Bay leaves