Why Moroccans Love Clay-Pot Tangia, ft. Abir

Medha Imam: I got it to go through. Abir: OK, we’re gonna, sorry. I, like, almost choked on my… My name’s Medha, and today we’re here in the East Village at Nomad to explore a traditional Moroccan dish called tangia. Joining me is Moroccan
American artist Abir, who is going to teach me more about a cuisine that’s close to her heart. Abir: It’s delicious, it’s flavorful, and it’s probably gonna
be the best food you have. But Moroccan food, for me, when I go home, it really does, like, refresh me. And after I eat it I really do feel like, OK, cool, I could do anything. Like, what do you want me to do? You want me to write a song? Tangia gets its name from this vessel. It’s an urn-like clay pot
that was originally used to preserve butter and olive oil. Originating from Marrakech, tangia was nicknamed the “bachelor’s stew” because the dish was predominantly made by and for Moroccan men, mainly unmarried workers, soldiers, and shepherds who traveled far from home. Now tangia is served in
restaurants and food stalls around the city, with many people playing a role in making the dish. But don’t get it confused with the well-known Moroccan tagine. Tangia and tagine are
very different dishes. The one commonality between the two is that they both get their names from the pots they’re cooked in. Mehenni Zebentout: If you say
tangia, you’re referring to a jar and not a plate with a dome on top. And people try not to go for it, because they have to wait five hours. Abir: Tagine or tangia,
it is a slow-cooked meal, and it takes five to six hours to get the, like, soft meat
and just the right stew. Medha: Traditionally, a
group of friends pitch in to buy the necessary ingredients
for tangia from a butcher, which include a preferred cut of meat along with various herbs and spices. Mehenni: You basically put in that dish most of the spices that are fundamental to Moroccan cuisine. But mainly preserved lemons, garlic, cumin, ghee, olive oil, saffron. It’s like, those ingredients
are known for tangia. You cannot put potatoes
and call it tangia. Medha: When all of the
ingredients are placed into the clay pot, the chef takes the tangia and wraps the top with parchment paper. Abir: And then you pretty
much, like, haul it over to a man with an oven, we call it faran. It’ll sit there for five to six hours under ash, like,
underground, cook, slow-cook. And then when it’s
ready, you’ll pick it up, go to the park, eat it with your family. And it really just brings,
like, a sense of community. You eat it together. And it’s just relaxing
end-of-the-week things. Medha: In Marrakech, these communal ovens are adjacent to hammams, which
are Turkish or Moorish baths that most Moroccans visit
at least once a week. The same fire that heats
water in the bathhouse is used to slow-cook the tangia. So, it’s not unusual to
turn up to a steam room with a pot full of meat. Inside, the oven operator, or farnatchi, may be responsible for watching over dozens of tangia nestled
into the ashes at once. Mehenni: So, and you give it to them, and they put it inside. So you find, like, 30 tangia sometimes, 40 tangias in there. And all of them, like, named. They know, the guy who makes them, he knows which one is what. And everybody’s waiting
and rubbing their hands, waiting for that deliciousness. Medha: At Nomad, Mehenni
makes his tangia with goat and uses a wood oven to
slowly heat up the clay pot until the meat is tender
and falling apart. When the stew is ready,
friends enjoy the tangia with a side of bread or couscous and end the meal with Moroccan mint tea. Oh! [laughing] Abir: How does it taste? Medha: Oh, my God, that is so good. It’s, like, tangy, and you can feel the smokiness
of just the meat itself because it’s been in
that oven for so long. You have to try it.
Abir: OK. All right. [laughing] So good! All the spices are very familiar. Preserved lemon really,
like, adds a different taste. That’s probably what feels a bit foreign. Medha: Yeah, yeah. Abir: All right, so
you’re just gonna grab it, and you’re just gonna suck
right through the middle, and all of that goodness
is gonna come right out. Medha: OK. [slurping] I don’t think I’m doing it right. Abir: Girl, you’re gonna snap. You gotta, like, really go for it. Commit. No? OK. Medha: Mm. Abir: Yeah? Medha: It’s so fatty. Abir: It’s really good, right? Medha: Oh, my God, that was so good. Abir: Well, with a meal like this, you would have atay, which
is Moroccan mint tea. And I used “mint” as the title of my EP because, for me, growing up in Morocco and even just here in the
States with my parents, every time there’s tea, there’s tea. There is actual gossip happening. So let’s have a little teatime. Medha: OK. Abir: I wanna know what you thought about this meal in particular. Medha: I really think one
thing that really stood out the most out of this dish specifically was the preserved lemon. That’s something that
I’ve never had within the dishes that I eat,
because in my culture we have this dish called nihari, and it’s very similar in terms of it takes, like, eight hours to stew. Abir: That’s one of my favorites. Medha: Yeah? Yeah! And it’s like, the only
difference, I swear, is just the lemony flavor. It’s amazing how a lot of our foods mesh and taste the same in ways but also have their own little kick to it. Abir: Yeah, you know, Moroccan
food, I’m telling you, it’s really, really up there. For us, like, Moroccans in general, it really brings you together. And food, if you can find
food that brings you together, it’s probably the best food to eat.

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