Searching for flavourful culinary delights and sampling unique foods from around the world is definitely one of the best parts about travel. From 5-star fine-dining to street food, finding local specialities is one of the highlights of our travels. In the little visited Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira, it’s no surprise that fish features prominently on the menu.
Essaouira is a charming coastal town roughly halfway between Casablanca and Agadir on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. There are few package holidaymakers here, with most visitors arriving independently. With a huge sweeping, sandy beach and a fortified harbour your days will be filled with relaxing and exploring this little visited Moroccan town. If you’re looking for an authentic culinary experience, then head to the fishing harbour for a highlight of your visit.
Here, you have free access to mingle amongst the fishermen going about the day’s chores within the Portuguese ramparts, browse the fishmongers stalls to see the latest catch and have you’re fish supper cooked for you on the quayside. It just doesn’t get much fresher than that.
The harbour, strewn with fishing nets, is used by both commercial fishing boats and the local fishermen to land their catch. After the fish are sold to the dockside fishmongers, makeshift cafés and town’s restaurants, the crews set about their daily chores, readying themselves for another fishing trip out at sea.
There’s the laundry to be done….
…the hold needs to be refilled with ice, ready for the next catch….
…and of course, the all-important nets to be inspected and any minor repairs undertaken.
All this activity is done under the watchful eye of the boat’s captain, who’ll chastise any of his crew he spots shirking…
Only when the chores are complete, is it time for a lunchbreak. So the crew step ashore…
An Authentic Culinary Experience at the Fishing Harbour of Essaouira
The area outside of the harbour is filled with so many restaurants that you’ll be spoiled for choice. They’re all selling the same day’s catch and aim their menus, side orders and prices at the independent tourist market. There’s little to choose between them and it’s likely you’ll eat at which ever restaurant sweet talks you best.
Before you decide, just look around to see who’s eating in these restaurants and ask yourself why there are no Moroccan diners here. Well, they’re eating where the fish is most fresh and cooked most simply. For an authentic dining experience, follow the locals and head for the stalls along the quay.
These makeshift cafés are not fussy. A barbecue, a plastic patio set, a few loaves of fresh bread, the day’s catch and a basket of lemons. What more do you need?
There’s no pushy sell here. There doesn’t need to be. The menu is on display; scales, fins and all.
From prawns to sea urchin, red snapper to eel, lobster to crab, the menu is only limited by what was caught that morning.
It’s all cooked in a similar way. The fish are de-scaled and cleaned, the crab claws removed before being cooked on the barbecue.
Sea urchins don’t need that much effort; slice them in half, a squeeze of lemon and simply spoon out the sushi contents.
And of course, tomorrow is another day and its lunch menu will be determined by how successful the next fishing trip is. Even the gulls know this, as they watch the fishing boats set sail again….