A look at Tanjia, the Moroccan meat dish associated with bachelors

Ama Nunoo Dec 11, 2019 at 09:30am

December 11, 2019 at 09:30 am | Culture, Foodie Friday

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

December 11, 2019 at 09:30 am | Culture, Foodie Friday

Photo: Instagram/ marrakechxanthe

Moroccan meals are packed with flavour and no one should visit the beautiful North African country without indulging in some authentic Moroccan delicacies.

Most tourists are advised to explore other Moroccan cities like Taroudant a mini version of Marrakech and Tafraoute said to be the city of mountains among other equally beautiful cities.

Marrakech is known for the authentic tanjia (tangia), which gives one a real taste of meat delicacy. It is a meat meal that slow-cooks in a public furnace oven.

Tangia, a terracota amphora used to cook the dish holding the same name
Photo: tasteodofmaroc

Like tanjin, tanjia marrakchia derives its name from the ceramic urn it’s prepared in. This meal is not a festive meal, actually it’s popularly known as the meal for bachelors or the meal for men. This is because originally, the meal was made for men of the working class.

The main economic activity for the men in the cities is craftsmanship. Since tanjia is a slow cooked meal, these men would make contributions to purchase the ingredients and send it over to the fernatchi, the one in charge of the communal oven.

The tanjia is cooked at low temperature in the ashes throughout the night or early in the day. Strategically, these ovens are not far from the public hammams or Moorish baths.

The men usually take it to the fernatchi to cook it overnight or send it over early morning so it will be ready by lunchtime. At lunch, they close their shops and enjoy their meal with bread and mint tea Moroccan style.

Most people attribute this dish to bachelors because to some it’s very easy to make and its preparation can be ‘trusted to men’.

Image result for tanjia"
Photo: www.tangibar.com

All they need to do is purchase the ingredients from the butcher. Lately, some butchers even add on all the seasoning in the tanjia urn for the men, and theirs is to just carry it to the fernatchi to cook it for them.

This meal is also called the ‘working man’s lunch’, the ‘bachelor’s stew’ or bent r’mad, literally translated as “daughter of ashes,” because it’s cooked in ashes close to four or five hours. After the long hours of cooking, the meat comes out beautifully cooked meat with a confit texture.

It’s not uncommon to find tanjia stew lunch stalls at the centre of Medina mostly patronised by the men.

To make this dish, portions of beef, lamb or sometimes chicken with all its trimmings, bone marrow and fat is seasoned with saffron, coriander, preserved lemon, garlic, parsley, and a dash of cumin.

Shake the tanjia urn to mix all the ingredients and cover with a parchment paper tied with a wire or string, not forgetting to make piercings on the paper to allow the heat to escape.

Little or no water is added because the juices from the meat combined with the fat and trimmings make the stew around the meat gelatinelike. Sometimes olive oil or Moroccan smen (an oily, salty type of butter, like ghee) are added to the mixture.

Today, though Marrakech is associated with tanjia and its urn, there are other variations that can be found in Meknes, Moulay Driss Zarhoun, Fez, Sefrou and Taroudant.

These cities and places are well known for their large numbers of souk traders and copper, wood, fabric and leather artisans who are mostly men.

Also, restaurants now have tanjia on their menu and they do well to prepare it the traditional way well in advance for their customers.

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