Not to be mistaken for a tajine, the tanjia must be cooked in a ceramic urn the traditional way – inside a communal furnace oven – and is exclusive to Marrakesh.
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Tucked beyond the main square, down a narrowing alley leading out to the souks, lie the stands of the tanjia Marrakchia, a specialty dish of Marrakesh.
The little clay pots lining the tiled tops of the stalls don’t contain fine cuisine, and the tired table and chair settings are easy to pass by – but any Marrakech local will agree that they hold the most tender and aromatic beef dish readily available in the city for lunch or dinner.
Tanjia is the name of both the stew and the ceramic urn it’s cooked in. Traditionally, the earthen pots are taken by families to the communal furnace ovens inside the medina, which heat water for the local hammams (public baths). The pots are left to slow cook in the ashes at a low temperature for long durations of time, often overnight. It’s common to see people wheeling dozens of the freshly roasted pots through the medina on carts and bicycles during the early morning hours.
Like all memorable Moroccan cuisine, patience and delicate balance of flavour are key to an outstanding tanjia, which can rival any other beef dish on offer in Morocco.
To make tanjia, chunks of beef (and sometimes lamb) – with all the fat, bone marrow and trimmings left on – are slow cooked with chopped preserved lemon, coriander, parsley, garlic, onions and a pinch of cumin and saffron.
Not to be mistaken for a tajine, which can incorporate many combinations of ingredients, the tanjia recipe must be cooked in the tanjia pot the traditional way and is also exclusive to Marrakesh. While families across Morocco might make their own tanjia Marrakchia by taking a ceramic pot to the communal ovens at the heart of any medina, the authentic lunchtime stands are only found in Marrakesh.
The stands are conveniently located opposite olive and mint tea stalls; you can also bring your purchases from wandering the Jemaa el Fna market to create your own lunch platter around the meat-heavy tanjia stew.
The dish is joked as being very ‘male’ in Marrakech. According to some, it’s so easy to make that the task of preparation can ‘even be trusted’ to men. It’s also locally known as a ‘working man’s lunch’ or a ‘bachelors stew’ due to the large queues of young men on their lunchbreak often seen lining up by the stands.