The Sardine Capital of the World: Morocco

Move over tagine

The Sardine capital of the world? When I think of Moroccan food, the first thing that comes to mind is couscous and lamb tagine, probably the most commonly known national delicacies. Sardine meatballs do not spring to mind.

Meandering through the souks of Marrakech, I would have thought Morocco was the the global capital for rugs and carpets, yet according to WorldAtlas.com Turkey wears that crown and reigns as the world’s biggest exporter of rugs.

When it comes to Sardines however, no other country can top Morocco, Morocco is king. I can’t believe I’m harping on about sardines – but it’s one of Morocco’s most successful exports, and worthy of a feature.

Essaouira is where the majority of sardine fishing activity takes place, and it also happens to be a popular Moroccan tourist destination for day trips or longer stays, offering much needed coastal relief from the city life of Marrakech Rabat and Casablanca.

The fishing community is strong in Essaouira, Morocco

What’s the big deal with sardines anyway?

I’m not being funny, but they must be a pretty big deal if Corfu took the trouble of hosting a sardine festival this year along with Portugal and France. It seems that sardines are to be celebrated.

Sardines tend to get a bad name – especially when you work in an office where a colleague decides to heat some up in the microwave – delighting our nasal passages with that unwelcome aroma.

However, the humble sardine is mightily beneficial to health, and not to be snubbed – rich in omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, Vitamin B12 for the nervous system, calcium and iron and thought to reduce blood clots and heart disease whilst providing antioxidant and cancer preventing properties – amongst other things, and cheaper than those fancy oil capsules a lot of us tend to buy – even millionaires like ‘Craig Cooper‘ can’t get enough of sardines.

Sardine appreciation society

Fried sardines happen to be a delicacy in Turkey and parts of India and a popular dish in Sicily, Portugal and Greece.

Sardines just don’t seem to be quite as popular in the UK. From what I can gather, Cornwall used to have a thriving sardine fishing industry during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, before it went downhill and it’s never really resurrected itself since.

Grilled sardines are a popular Moroccan dish

A Sardine Lunch

I sampled the goods in Morocco, freshly caught and grilled, they were nothing like the sardines you get in the supermarket. These sardines seemed huge compared to those finger sized things we see in the peel back tins.

Fresh Moroccan sardines had more fish flesh on them, but lots of bones, and the bones weren’t really edible so it took a lot of fiddling to eat through them – that’s probably why they served plenty of bread with the dish.

Tip: If you start chocking on a fish bone – eat bread. Chewing and swallowing dry bread can help dislodge and move the bone along, but don’t chew it too much otherwise it becomes useless mush. So make sure you have some bread nearby whenever you eat fish, it could be a life saver.

Thankful for Sardines

Sardines have made Morocco proud, they have boosted the Moroccan economy and helped keep many locals employed within the fishing community.

Despite being named after the Italian island of Sardinia, Sardines have managed to steal a global claim to fame through Morocco, as the sardine capital of the world.

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