In the heart of one of Cairo’s most crowded areas, Mohandessin, a spot of peace, bright colours exists. With the scent of the city of Chefchaouen taking over Cairo’s overcrowded streets and unbearable car horns, in a narrow, dim, crowded street, lies Marocain Moments, a restaurant serving Moroccon cuisine.
Bright colours are the main theme of the decorations, with the famous Moroccan decoration patterns, and the walls and ceiling stencilled with blue, red, purple, and green colours. Surrounded by cross-coloured victors tiles, waiters who are dressed in Morocco’s traditional costumes and pale faded portraits of elders cooking on fire stoves; people could not help but feel they have travelled in time to an earlier era and are sitting in one of Morocco’s local alleys.
When it came to exploring Moroccan culture before eating the food, it could have been better if some songs from their heritage were played in the background.
From the first steps inside Marocain Moments, people start contemplating the decorations, statues, and portraits aiming to explore as much as possible from a culture that indicate its richness in legacy, yet the scene is somehwat interrupted with some modern Egyptian songs, which one again brings visitors forward in time and place to Egypt.
In terms of food, Moroccan cuisine definitely means tajines. The Daily News Egypt team asked for the most ordered plates in the restaurant: meat with apricots and plums tajine, chicken with green olives tajine and buried chicken couscous. As starters, we went for Moroccan salad and “harissa”.
While the main course took some time to prepare, the appetisers came right after the order was placed. Moroccan salad was a combination of small chopped tomatoes, spicy preserved lemon, green olives, and green bell peppers.
It was later obvious that Moroccan preserved lemons are an essential element of most Moroccan dishes. The pickled lemons are preserved with salt, spices, and Moroccan herbs for a few weeks until the lemons soften and absorb all of their surrounding ingredients.
The taste of the lemon was quite obvious and sharp in the salad, overcoming any other flavour. For those who love pickles’ salty taste, the salad would be one of their favourites. Yet, we preferred to find another strong taste competing with the saltiness to create a balance. While some found their sought balance in tomatoes, with them chopped really small, others did not.
“Harissa” is a Moroccan hot chilli pepper paste. The main ingredient in it are roasted red peppers, “baklouti” pepper (capsicum annuum), serrano peppers, and garlic. The paste is only for those who are passionate for extremely spicy food. While only some of us are, the choice was one of the most preferrable. The fresh taste of pepper in the chilli taste created the most admiring combination for hot-food lovers.
When it came to the main dishes, buried chicken couscous was the table’s most admired superstar. In Egyptian cuisine, couscous is known to be cooked as a sweet dish. Trying it with chicken as a main, savoury dish was a first for the whole team. However, pleasure was the common feeling among all after the first few bites.
The plate consisted of chicken pieces that were seemingly melting, with caramelised onions buried inside the yellowish couscous, which was topped with small portions of sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.
While some might find the combination non-matching, as we first thought, we found it to be the complete opposite.
The sweet taste of brown caramelised onions, with the saltiness of couscous and chicken create a completely balanced ground when one eventually tastes everything clearly and strongly. The chicken was so well-cooked that it felt as though it melted off the bones, something that added a unique taste with the moist couscous.
As for the topping sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, they completed the balance of sweetness against the saltiness of chicken and couscous.
For those who love the pickles, chicken with green olives is also another recommended plate. The tajine consists of three big chicken pieces with green olives cooked in a sauce of coriander and lemon. The tajine’s smell was the most pronounced among the dishes.
Matching the decoration of the table it was served on, the colours of the plate were eye-catching as the yellow, green, and brown mixed together well.
The chicken was also extremely well-cooked to the aforementioned “melting” extent, while the green coriander sauce had a slightly sour taste. The sauce won everyone’s hearts, to the extent that even those who did not like the sharp taste of lemon loved dipping Moroccan bread in it.
The plate was quite satisfying for most of the team who are fond of pickled tastes. For the others, the chicken with sauce was also a satisfyingly tasty dish to eat with bread.
The meat with apricots and plums tajine is an eastern twist on sweet and sour. The meat was cooked with onion and herbs, mixed with dried sweet apricots and plums, creating a new taste of the famous sweet and sour category, yet applying the same concept.
The tajine contained several medium pieces of chicken, surrounded by apricots and plums. The combination between elements in taste were quite amusing to try. This is one of the most famous heritage dishes in Moroccan cuisine and one of the most ordered plates all across the world, one of the waiters said.
The sweetness of fruits overcomes the meat’s taste slightly, however, this does not affect the sour taste of the meat. The tajine is another highly recommended dish to try.
All of the plates were thoroughly cooked, something we loved. Prices for the appetisers ranged from EGP 30-70. The main dishes’ prices started from EGP 100 and went up to EGP 250, which is quite reasonable for the served portions.