Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vegan in Morocco: Fez & Meknes

So, the next stop along our journey was Fez. Fez! For reals! Very exciting. Each city in Morocco has an old, traditional part of town called the medina (full of winding streets and vendors and markets), and a newer part of town called the ville nouvelle (built during the French occupation). We found some eats in both parts of town in Fez... though, as always, much more for omnivorous Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats than for vegan Me.

Even if you are sometimes hard-pressed to find a big, warm vegan meal, you will absolutely never have a hard time finding yummy vegan goodies to snack on in Fez (or, really, most anywhere in Morocco). And I don't just mean the bread.
In the former Jewish quarters of Fez we passed shop after shop selling nuts and dates and dried fruits. There were also loads of vendors selling dried beans and rice and legumes and couscous... so if you were somehow staying in a place with a kitchen, you would be really stoked! But even these goodies make for a pretty tasty, high-calorie, and nutritious snack to keep you going as you wander the alleyways of the medina.

You can also readily find olives... as I mentioned in a previous post. The olive stalls are so beautiful! Some of the olive guys were particularly helpful about indicating which olives were super spicy, which I appreciated.

These are some of the spicy little guys!! They look lethal!

This guy is selling fava beans and rose petals. Favas were everywhere we went, and a few times we were served some vegan fava dishes as part of the light "Moroccan salad" course that starts a meal. On our big drive through the countryside, we also saw fields and fields of favas. Mmm!

Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup... it's a light tomatoey broth with veggies and beans in it. To be honest, I didn't really bother trying to figure out if the broth was vegan, but the contents certainly were. Generally when I travel I'm still really strict about being vegan. Even with the language barrier, I always try to ask or figure out if something is vegan. And I pretty much always err on the side of going hungry or eating another Clif Bar (sigh!), rather than ordering something I'm unsure of. But sometimes I employ a bit of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. If something is clearly pretty much vegan - like some bread or rice or this vegetable soup - I won't persist about the details. I'm sure every vegan has a slightly different travel policy, but that's mine.

This was one of our favorite meals of our whole time in Morocco, at the wonderful little Marrakech Restaurant in Fez (ville nouvelle). The people were so friendly and gracious about tweaking their menu to help me get an all-vegan meal. First course was some lentils (I didn't trust these to be vegan), some very nice spiced carrots, and fresh cucumbers. And fresh bread, of course!

My main course was this veggie and chickpea tagine with the most heavenly fluffy fluffy fluffy couscous of all time.

And my dessert was a nice bowl of fresh fruit with fresh mint and freshly squeezed OJ. mmm!

Also, next time you are in Fez, look for the guy in the old Jewish market area selling sandwiches stuffed with socca/farinata. We spotted this beautiful young man, dressed in very traditional all-white Islamic dress (totally immaculate!) selling his sandwiches. He was friendly and super clean and had a lovely patient and precise methodology to making his sandwiches. Naturally, I assumed they weren't vegan, but I encouraged Mr. VE&T to get one so that he could tell me about it. Once he started eating it, he said "hey! I think this is vegan!" So, we went back and in our pathetic French, asked what the little cake was that he was putting in his sandwich, and cleared up that there were no eggs or butter in it. Then he made me my sandwich: One of those little round Moroccan loaves of bread with a slit cut into it to make it like a pita, with some warm socca-type stuff mooshed in, with salt and cumin and something a bit spicy sprinkled in too. Mmm! We didn't take a picture of him, but he was warm and lovely, and he gave me something nutritious and delicious, so he has a special place in my heart.

-- Meknes --

In Meknes, which I LOVED by the way, we bought fruit at the market and I ate another meal quite similar to the one pictured above from Fez, also quite good...

...But my favorite food picture from Meknes is this pretty picture of my mint tea in the big main square. The square was bustling with activities: families, children, men hanging out together, women hanging out together, traditional musicians, snake charmers (!), preachers, games, and more. It was rad!

Also, we took a little trip from Meknes to see Volubilis, a pretty good-sized former Roman city. We enjoyed the ruins, the mosaics, the wildflowers, and - best of all - the nesting storks with their babies!!

-- Casablanca --

We spent one very brief night in Casablanca... and didn't get to see much of town. We were going to head out for dinner, but when we set out from our hotel right at nightfall, we pretty quickly got the feeling that we didn't want to be heading back this way in the dark of night. So, I found a bakery selling some nice vegan little focaccia/pizza thingees, and then we stopped into a snacks and candies shop. You can see that Mr. VE&T doesn't mess around with his snack foods! Granted, there IS a bag of oranges there. Ha ha! In the end, he gave most of those cookies to the folks at the front desk at our next hotel, because he didn't want to eat them all.

One super fun find from the snack shop was these gelatin-free gummy candies! I bought one of each available flavor, but in hindsight I see that I should have bought out their entire supply of vegan gummy coke bottles (a former true love of mine). I was actually surprised at how hard it was to find halal/vegan gummy candies in Morocco. I was hoping to step into the promised land of vegan gummies, but this did not happen. Maybe such a place is only a myth, like the lost world of Atlantis! Nonetheless, I was happy to score these, and other than the coke bottles, I've still got most of them left to savor and enjoy in little bits.

Just to wrap up a few thoughts about eating vegan in Morocco... I did indeed eat one Clif Bar every day, and I was glad to have them. Generally, the dishes available to tourists are indeed meat-heavy, but I managed to get in some pretty satisfying warm meals, eat some traditional food, and stay true to my ethics. Fresh fruit and veg are easy to find, as are the snacks like nuts and olives. Not many people spoke English, but if you can hobble along a little in French, you'll be fine. Pretty much everyone in Morocco seemed to speak French, but they totally did NOT know the word "vegetalien" (vegan), so be prepared to ask - in French - for food with no eggs, no milk, etc. If you spend much time in the kitchen, you'll be able to look at most menu items and pretty quickly figure out what might be vegan.

And, I can't resist including a couple travel shots to cap it off... Here I am beaming with delight at all the beauty! That sacred Islamic architecture just knocked my socks off. Peaceful, refined, balanced, symmetrical, artful, elegant, imaginative, harmonious... I could go on and on.

Way down there in the shadows, leaning up against the archway, is a little tiny me... standing in the main gate entrance to the medina in Fez. Vive la Maroc!

Next up - Lisbon!

12 comments:

  1. oh! it's all so exciting! i agree with you, that architecture is so beautiful.
    i want to grab a fistful of spicy olives right out of that picture, yum!

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  2. You guys are having such fun and the buildings and the markets are outstanding. ENJOY!

    http://nuestracena-vegan cuisine.blogspot.com

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  3. What a great write up of Fez! Glad you were able to find a few hidden vegan treats there! The photos look fantastic! :-)

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  4. Anonymous8:48 PM

    Dates! Olives! Yum yum, Fez looks like a great place to visit. The pictures of you are great - you are perfectly coordinated colorwise with your surroundings in each. I am shocked at, though, at the amount of tea consumed by a supposed tea hater :-) jen e.

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  5. My vegan travel "policy" is pretty much the same as yours. It's nice to read about how you were able make it work! The architecture is breathtaking but what I really love are the photos of the food markets and how they are SO colorful. This sounds like an amazing journey Amey! I'm so happy for you to be able to do something like this.

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  6. I also have a similar vegan travel policy :)
    That architecture is stunning, and I love your story about the socca pitta guy.

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  7. Your posts about Morocco have been so awesome and helpful! I'd love to have tried one of those spicy olives.

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  8. Your blog rocks! I was in Morocco when I was 12 and I miss it soo much. Enjoy your travels!

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  9. I am loving your travel posts. I love Moroccan cuisine.

    I'm adding a link to your blog to the sidebar of mine. I don't know why I didn't do that years ago!

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  10. You are so adventurous and brave, I feel like a complete travel-wimp. I hear you about the "don't ask, don't tell" thing though. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss, especially when the tummy rumbles!

    Those spicy olives look pretty badass! *wimp*

    The architecture is beautiful. And sorry, but I can't help myself... here's looking at you, kid! Sorry.

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  11. You're so good at eating well all over the world!

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  12. Vanessa9:38 AM

    Thank you so much for this post. We're planning a trip to Morocco next month and I was a bit worried about how eating will go. Now I feel more at ease. Lovely post!

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