“To touch the past with one’s hand is realised only in dreams, and in Morocco the dream-feeling envelopes one at every step.”
I had first been introduced to Tangia in a Moroccan restaurant, a few years ago, and was fascinated by the fact that it is brought to the table in an ancient looking clay jar, that is elongated and looks worn out and almost burnt. The mouth of the jar (top) sealed with browned baking paper tied firmly with a string, which was untied at the table then the paper removed. As the waiter poured the Tangia into the plate, we were hit with a strong cumin aroma mixed with saffron… immediately you feel like you are in the presence of Morocco. I asked what it was and the waiter said: “This is traditional Moroccan food that is the specialty of Marrakech”. He said “this is special food in Morocco and not everyone can make it”… we ate and it was heavenly. The goats’ meat, the cumin sauce, the saffron…. Divine!
I was very intrigued by this dish and wanted to learn more… then I read Paula Wolfert’s account on Tangia, and learning that it was cooked by men and that she had to go through so much trouble locating people who could teach her how to make this dish… I was even more intrigued, so I decided once in Morocco to follow her trail in finding the real Tangia makers and learn it there!
So when I finally made it to Marrakech I could not believe that I was actually finally meeting the man known for his Tangia. The one who has the most popular tangia restaurant in Marrakech’s market. The very one who was the King’s cook… I was finally in the presence of the dish I read so much about and had enormous curiosity for. Watch the episode on this link.
I devoured Haji Mustafa’s Tangia and my curiosity about this dish… this is some of my conversation with him and how he prepares the Traditional Tangia of Marrakech!
(please note that this video was shot using my phone, therefore bear with me the quality of the sound).
FYI – TANGIA of Marrakech
This dish is traditionally prepared a day ahead, placed in the jar and sealed. It is then taken to the community bath (Moroccan bath where people go to get scrubbed, washed and massaged). The pots are placed in the burning coal – covering only 1/3 of the jar – and are left there to cook overnight. The result is succulent meat that literally falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Along with a brownish cumin sauce that is out of this world. Just dunk in the bread and taste the heavenly flavours of Marrakech.
PS Although the dish is from Marrakech the pots are actually made in Ribat, and in Marrakech everyone tells you that the best Tangia pots are bought in Ribat