(… and I sometimes regret it)
I have read in several books that the multiple influences of Moroccan cuisine include Turkish cuisine.
This has always surprised me. You don't find in Morocco the great classics of this imperial cuisine, itself a fusion of many influences (including Persian cuisine).
Moroccan cuisine is very specific. It shares dishes such as couscous with the rest of the Maghreb, but Moroccan flavours, spice blends and their subtlety, for example, are unique.
Little foreign influence in Moroccan cuisine
In fact, the opposite is true: culinarily, there is a sort of border to the east of Morocco, which corresponds to the historical frontiers, and which stops the spread of many dishes that are widespread in the rest of the Maghreb and North Africa (such as falafel, for example). Even "tajine" is different in Tunisia.
This had even been a difficulty when my husband and I had fixed the programme "Fourchette et sac à dos" about Morocco. Shot in the south of Morocco, at the time of the Rose Festival in Kelaa M'Gouna, it was impossible to find rose-based dishes in Moroccan cuisine.
No loukoums, no mixtures of spices like the advieh(which I ended up making myself), rose water, in our country, is a perfume, nothing more, that can be used in desserts, whereas the rose is omnipresent in this "Iranian-Persian-Ottoman" cuisine.
(For the record, we ended up "inventing" a recipe for beef tajine with rose water at the request of the production team, which I have since seen repeated on a few websites as a classic of Moroccan cuisine. It is not, and I assure you that this dish is not good.… sorry Julie!)
Except in border regions or pre-colonial immigration regions
So I jumped for joy when I read this interview with Anny Gaul, an American historian, who limits the influence of Turkish cuisine to the city of Tetouan.
The history of cuisine is fascinating. It is the history of the economy, of religion, with its culinary taboos, of trade and exchange, of climate…
The history of Moroccan cuisine is a bit difficult. In Europe, we have sources for medieval — and even ancient — cuisine. In Morocco, such ancient sources hardly exist. On the other hand, if you look at the ingredients of traditional Moroccan dishes, you can see that a certain number of them, such as tomatoes, are imported products, which could not have arrived in the country before the 16th or 17th century, or developed before the 20th century.
This is the subject of one of Anny Gaul's blog posts: what was pasta like in the 17th century?
To come back to Turkish influences on Moroccan cuisine, we must, of course, disregard the success of shawarmas, the local name given to kebab — which is, in fact, of German origin, an invention by a Turkish immigrant (after all) that conquered the world. The closest thing to it in Turkish cuisine is the iskander doner, which is served on a plate.
Tetouan, in the east of Morocco, never belonged to the Ottoman Empire. On the other hand, it welcomed many Algerian refugees in the 19th century, who were fleeing French colonisation. They brought Ottoman recipes, cakes such as balkava, k'taifs, kaâb m'fenned, m'hancha and zammita… (as confirmed by Fatima R'houni, a specialist in the cuisine of Tetouan)
Main differences between Turkish and Moroccan cuisine
Living in Germany for a few years, I ate real Turkish food in local restaurants run by Turks whose clientele was mostly Turkish, and I bought a few cookbooks.
Rice, ravioli, dairy products (the famous taztziki) are absent from traditional Moroccan cuisine. Even the Turkish version of aubergine salad is eaten with yoghurt! Turkey also has many cheeses, and I still miss the halloumi I used to find at Bim!
Tabbouleh, of which the Turks have created a their own variant, does not exist at all in Morocco.
In spices and condiments, Turkey uses sumac, salep, poppy seeds, sesame in the form of tahina. Sesame and nut oils are also used a lot, whereas they remain rare and luxury products in Morocco.
Spinach is one of the basic vegetables. In Morocco, bakoula (mallow) is used during a limited season…
Finally, Turkish breads are whiter and more leavened than traditional Moroccan breads.
Two very different culinary spheres
Turkey is therefore in the world of "Levant (sunrise)" cuisine (Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan) with which it shares ingredients and preparation methods. The Turkish Sultan has his main residence in Istanbul (Topkapi and then Dolmabahçe), a unique capital. Between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Turkey is literally in the middle of waters. It has a Mediterranean climate with some cooler mountain areas.
Morocco is in the "Sunset". Most of the ingredients of Turkish cuisine can be found here, many are rarer, the dishes, the preparations are different. For centuries, the Moroccan sultan moves from palace to palace, the imperial cities change with the dynasties. Moroccan cuisine is very much influenced by desert cuisine, by this almost nomadic way of life.
In short, it's not the same…