The national dish of Morocco is tajine, a lamb or poultry stew. Still, you can find other conventional ingredients such as almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables on it. Couscous is also a Moroccan dietary staple. Nevertheless, there is a dish that probably you never heard of and that dish is Bastilla, or bisteeya (also known as pastilla).
The most substantial influence on the Moroccan cuisine was the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D.. To the already existing local ingredients, such as olives, figs, and dates, they added new pieces of bread and other foods made from grains, introducing spices like cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, and caraway. Learnt with the Persians, they also introduced sweet and sour cooking. However, was the Moorish inheritance from Andalucia, Spain, that gave Morocco this dish.
The name of Bastilla, comes from the Spanish word for “small pastry”, pastilla, after the transformation of the phoneme “p” into “b” that is specific to the Arabic language. Served on special occasions such as weddings, when esteemed guests arrive and for a holiday Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, Bastilla consists of a sweet and savoury pigeon pie.
Surrounded by delicate layers of paper-thin pastry leaves called warqa, the top of which is sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon, has as traditional filling a mixture of abundant pigeon, almonds and eggs spiced with saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander. Nevertheless, nowadays, chicken is more used that pigeon.
I’ve been to Morocco several times until I find this fantastic dish. I feel a bit ashamed for saying that I only discovered it eleven years after my first trip to the country. However, I must recognise that this exceptional pie represents the pinnacle of the exquisite Moroccan cuisine. The icing sugar and cinnamon make all the difference by adding a sweet taste to it, turning it into a unique food creation. Overall, I can say that it is a sweet and sour taste sensations all at once.
Its delicious cuisine characterises Morocco, but now I just added a new experience to your Moroccan food. When in Morocco, look for it in any local restaurant and delight with each one of its flawless flavours. By the way, don’t forget to accompany it with the traditional drink of the country, the incredible mint tea, for a perfect meal.
Related: Harira, the Moroccan soup