This is Marrakesh!

“To touch the past with one’s hand is realised only in dreams, and in Morocco the dream-feeling envelopes one at every step.”

Edith Wharton

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


Serves: 6 Cook Time: 10 hours (slow cooking)
  • 1.5 Kg Goats’ meat on the bone
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 preserved lemons (Moroccan pickled lemons) find recipe here
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Ras il Hanut (Moroccan spice mix)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • A generous pinch of Saffron threads
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp rosewater (optional)
  • 2 tbsp Smen (local Moroccan clarified butter), or unsalted butter or olive oil

An elongated clay pot as in picture is the best way to cook Tangia otherwise it can also be cooked in a Tagine pot or any other clay pot or a slow cooker. 

Preheat the oven to the lowest settings (about 200 F / 100 C)In a small bowl, mix the water and rosewater then soak the saffron threads in the mixture. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile crush the garlic and cumin seeds together and place in a separate bowl along with the remaining spices, smen or oil and mix well. Rub the meat pieces with this mixture and pour all into the tangia pot. Pour the saffron water and shake the pot slightly.

Cover the top with wet baking paper and tie firmly with kitchen string. Bake for 10 hours in the preheated oven or 1/3 immersed into burning coal.

Once done, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour into a serving dish and serve with thick bread.

Thoughts born in my visit to Marrakesh;

Marrakesh is a city that will have you mesmerised! Everywhere you look the city seeps of culture. In most you will feel that the clock is non existent there, like it refuses to be. It is in a way ancient, in another new and somehow you feel like all the historic characters are going to pop out anytime! What is definitely interesting about Marrakesh is you cannot miss Morocco in it, the spirit and unique character of the whole country is all gathered in this brick red city.

In Marrakesh you see lots of colour, in its architecture, its greenery and all that is on display in its markets. Over there the colours are vibrant and in no way muted and like its nature somewhat harsh and not softened. There are really no filters, it is what it is, and it is very colourful. So diverse in terms of time from the carriages to the new cars, the locals, the visitors and the animals, its age old Tangia restaurants and their counterpart fine dining and even a Michelin Restaurant… All is there and harmoniously co-existing!

The Flavours of Marrakesh, there is nothing that you won’t find there. From the spices to the roses, the pickles and preserves the olives and their oil to argan oil both for beauty and for cooking. ..

The Pharmacy, which there is a spice shop that sells herbs, spices and all types of homeopathy ingredients. A colourful city with a unique spirit that is old as time… a bazaar of all things.. this is Marrakesh!

I love visiting new places, exploring new countries and discovering every turn in cities new to me. The one thing I always look for is the spirit of a place, that timeless all encompassing spirit that holds the collective in all its times, and get very disappointed when I don’t get to experience that or when I don’t find it. One way I have found to be most effective to connect to a place and get to see its unique spirit is through its traditional and most authentic local foods. Through those flavours, stories, techniques and even the choice of place (and here gender) of its cooking, tell you so much about the place and what it got to experience. Isn’t that the reason we travel? Aren’t we all looking to experience and learn all that we can experience and learn? Isn’t that in the end why we live? Do you feel the same way? Or is it different to you?


Find my photo album of Marrakesh (best picks) on this link.

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