This is a tale of my palate’s journey to Café Casablanca at Rustan’s Makati.
Moroccan food has always made my mouth water. Its unique flavors are enough to transport my senses to this country in North Africa.
Moroccan fare is spiced but not necessarily spicy. It is fragrant, aromatic, at times sweet or tangy.
The flavors come on many levels, emboldened by a symphony of spices that make every bite hearty.
I found the dishes phenomenal—Seafood and Chicken Pastilla, Lamb Tagine with Prunes, Lemon Chicken and Couscous of Lamb.
The lamb dishes are cooked to perfection over low heat for a long period, long enough for the spices to lend their best flavors to the meat. When served, the meat falls off the bone.
The Lamb Couscous is etched in my mind. I crave for it as I do for the Lamb Tagine.
The Chicken and Seafood Pastilla—savory pies—are perfumed, flavor-packed, have rich texture and hints of sweetness.
The pastilla is made traditionally with warqa (thin pastry sheets similar to phyllo), paired with atay (fresh mint tea). It is excellent.
The last time I had Moroccan food of the same quality, the kind that lingers in my mind, was in Paris, cooked by a Moroccan lady.
What a treat it is to have Moroccan fare just within my reach this time.
In 2018, Rustan’s had the Moroccan pop-up restaurant as part of its first Moroccan festival. After rave reviews, Café Casablanca was set up again this year, and this time, to run indefinitely.
Marilen Tantoco, Rustan’s VP for Home Merchandising, brought to Manila the Moroccan chef, Rachida.
Marilen is confident that diners and Rustan’s shoppers will love the whole Moroccan experience, from the food
prepared by the Moroccan chefs to the café interiors done by a Moroccan designer.
When I asked the chef what defines Moroccan cuisine, she enumerated a number of spices—“cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper and sesame seeds.”
With such a veritable treasure chest of flavors, how can you not be enticed to simply indulge?
Chef Rachida shares this recipe.
Eggplant Cigars with Almonds and Honey
½ liter peanut oil
½ kg almonds
2 tbsp sugar
1 drop essence of orange blossom
1 glass honey
20 g sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut the eggplant into thin slices lengthwise and fry in oil until they color.
Put on paper towels to drain oil. Mix almond paste, the essence of orange blossom and knead.
Divide the dough into as many pieces as there are slices of eggplant. Roll each piece of dough into sticks, like mini cigars.
Put an almond cigar on the thin edge of the eggplant and roll. Arrange the cigars on a baking sheet and drizzle them with honey.
Bake and cook for 5 minutes.
Serve warm, garnished with almonds.
Café Casablanca, 5/F, Rustan’s Makati
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