No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style

FlyAwayU | No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style
Typical Moroccan salad and lamb tanjia served with khobz (Moroccan flatbread). The salad is eaten with a fork.

“There’s no silverware!”

I look around feeling just a bit panicked.

And we’ve just landed in Marrakech.

With less than two hours on the ground, we’re faced with the small dilemma of sitting at a table FULL of food, and there’s no SILVERWARE to eat it with.

Bowls of hot juicy lentils, lamb tanjia, Moroccan omelets and other assorted goodies were spread across the table ordered by our incredible Airbnb host, Aziz. He not only picked us up from the airport but drove us straight to a fantastic Moroccan restaurant where he ordered all the food he felt we should try.

Apparently, used to Westerns who have no fucking clue what they’re doing, Aziz dove into the bowl of puffy flatbread sitting in the middle of the table and tore off pieces handing them to us, then dipped into one of the dishes.

Feeling A LOT out of depth, we sat there, hungry, wanting to eat, until my tired brain finally remembered that Moroccans eat using their hands. There is no silverware!

Well, that’s not entirely true, but I’ll explain more on that later.

For now, it was time for “monkey see, monkey do” because I was HUNGRY.

FlyAwayU | No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style
Fish tagine served with both khobz and a fork in a surf restaurant near Tamraught

How to Eat Moroccan Style

Feeling a little worried right now?

It’s understandable, especially if you’re from a society that uses silverware regularly.

There’s a lot to get used to when eating Moroccan style!

In Morocco, they dish up the food in large community dishes, and everyone gathers to eat, scooping out bites using just their fingers or torn pieces of bread.

I can attest that it takes a great deal of skill to scoop the food into your mouth with either bread or fingers without spilling it on yourself.

AND you have to do it all WITHOUT licking your fingers!

The trick is to use your first three fingers cupped together and use a scooping up motion, helping to settle the food onto your fingers, for transportation into your mouth.

Then you use your thumb for pushing the food into your mouth to avoid licking your fingers.

Licking your fingers is very taboo BECAUSE you are eating out of a COMMUNAL pot.

Just think, are you grossed out by the person who double dips?

This is the same thing!

While the Moroccans do share food and laughter, they don’t want to share your spit.

I have to admit that not licking the fingers is harder to remember than learning the scooping method.

It’s just a reflex when food is running down your fingers!

FlyAwayU | No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style
Dinner in the Medina in Essaouira is served with both bread and silverware for tourists.

Eating in the US

It’s not that eating with the hands is not entirely foreign in the US.

We eat pizza, fried chicken, sandwiches, and finger foods with hands.

BUT we never eat “messy” foods such as tagines, couscous, curries, stews and pasta with our fingers. OR even bread!

As a matter of fact, we rarely share food together anymore.

Instead, we’re more into our busy schedules or the overuse of technology at mealtimes.

I completely admit I’m guilty of checking my phone during a meal. Actually, I’m probably more guilty of photographing our food until it’s annoying, but that’s the curse of being a food blogger.

But maybe if we just continue with eating the way we learned in Morocco, the habit would be gone.

So learning to use no silverware was a little strange at first, but we adapted pretty quickly.

FlyAwayU | No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style
Khobz, pronounced “hobs” is a type of Moroccan flatbread.

The Moroccans and Silverware Use

It’s not that Moroccans don’t use silverware at all.

It’s just less often than Westerners do.

They use spoons for the occasional soup and of course, stirring their coffee or tea. And the restaurants that cater to Westerners provide silverware without asking.

But the Moroccan culture is hardly the exception.

Many Arabic, African, Asian and Indian cultures eat with the hands. Did you realize, most sushi is eaten with the hands, not chopsticks?

Yes, you’ve been doing it wrong!

And of course, you can ASK for silverware.

But why not try eating it the local way.

Lay that fork down and pick up a piece of bread.

Eating is about fun and enjoyment. It’s about community and love of food.

If you want to avoid looking like a complete newbie by practicing at home before taking a trip to regions that eat with their fingers. Get some naan or other flatbread and try eating stews, Chinese food, or something like baked beans before you go.

Here are a few of the “rules” for eating with your hands so you don’t screw it up.

No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style
Lamb tanjia with tanjia cooking pot in the background.

Rules for Eating with the Hands

The Moroccans and most Arabic countries have similar rules for eating with the hands.

#1. Always eat with clean hands.

I’m not sure why this is an issue in any society, but it shouldn’t be. Clean your hands before eating. ESPECIALLY when eating out of a community dish! No one likes dirty hands in the food bowl!

#2. In many Arabic cultures, only use your right hand.

Many Middle Eastern cultures use the left hand for cleaning their bodies. Translate: keep your shit wiping hand out of the pot.

#3. Never double dip.

Like in any culture, doubling dipping is NOT okay.

#4. DON’T lick your fingers.

Licking your fingers is the same as double dipping. It puts your spit back into the pot for everyone else.

Eating Moroccan style is easy.

Yes, you’ll probably end up with a few food stains at first.

But it’ll be so worth it in the end.

And the locals will respect you more because you didn’t ask for silverware!

If you’re ready to head to Morocco, please consider using our affiliate link for Skyscanner to get great deals on flights. And if you want a fantastic place to stay, host and guide in Marrakech consider booking with our host Aziz (no affiliate link needed, he’s an excellent guy).

No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style

39 thoughts on “No Silverware Allowed: Eating Moroccan Style

  • 26/01/2018 at 14:26
    Permalink

    This was a really nice reminder of me when I went to Morocco last year. I’ll be honest though; I used cutlery the whole time we were there! Funnily enough, none of the locals advised us on using our hands. I’m not Moroccan, but I definitely don’t double dip, it’s just wrong!

    Reply
    • 26/01/2018 at 15:48
      Permalink

      I think it depends on if you get out of the main areas and back into where the locals live. Everywhere we ate in the main areas provided silverware but when you get away from that, you had to ask for it. Since we used Airbnb, we lived in the locals neighborhoods and all the restaurants were for the locals so they didn’t cater to tourists. It was really a different experience in each of the areas.

      Reply
  • 26/01/2018 at 17:57
    Permalink

    Great article, gorgeous photos! I’m hungry now.

    Reply
    • 26/01/2018 at 22:55
      Permalink

      LOL, Amy. I do believe you’re hungry all the time. But then again so am I when it comes to delicious food. 😉

      Reply
  • 26/01/2018 at 22:26
    Permalink

    I always wondered about the whole “licking the fingers” thing in silverware-less cultures. I know it’s funny to think that people have to be reminded to eat with clean hands, but there it is. I remember we used to put up signs when I worked at Disneyland, giving the steps to washing hands.

    Reply
    • 26/01/2018 at 22:56
      Permalink

      I agree. That one never ceases to amaze me that you actually have to remind people.It’s like the warning the stove or coffee is hot! When did people stop having common sense?

      Reply
  • 27/01/2018 at 06:56
    Permalink

    This happened to us in Jordan. Admittedly it felt really bizarre and I wouldn’t be in a rush to repeat it. That said, it is part of the experience and understanding a culture, love the pictures

    Reply
    • 27/01/2018 at 18:02
      Permalink

      It really was bizarre at first but now we don’t mind it at all. I’ve even gotten where I can scoop up food without getting it all over my fingers and myself. 🙂

      Reply
  • 27/01/2018 at 09:25
    Permalink

    Coming from Thailand where we eat with hands all the time reading your post makes me laught. I can forget of how strange it might seem to eat with hands for people who are not used to it! But I though I was a pro of eating with hands until I came to India. It was much harder because Indian cuisine has so much gravy and it was not easy! My best eat-with-hands-experiences is when eating in an afrikan restaurant. There they serve you of 1 big plate for everyone around the table to dig in. Soooo good! If you bring someone on the first date, bring them to a reastaurant where they must eat with hands!

    Reply
    • 27/01/2018 at 18:01
      Permalink

      Yeah, I think it was the gravy style dishes that got me in Morocco as well. In the US, we would normally use a spoon for those so it was an experience to learn to use the bread to dip it out and get it to my mouth without spilling it on myself. And then not licking my fingers because they were covered in gravy. It’s awesome to learn and such an amazing experience. It was good that we had three months in Morocco because it’s no longer foreign. Here in the US, we tend to only eat sandwiches, pizza, fruit and chicken with our hands. Possibly a couple of other things, but never anything with a gravy or liquid style.

      Reply
  • 29/01/2018 at 04:18
    Permalink

    The food looks amazing, I’m hungry now! I’m sure it would be odd at first but I would love to try out the Moroccan style of eating.

    Reply
    • 29/01/2018 at 14:26
      Permalink

      Oh, you have to try eating it Moroccan style. It just adds to the experience so much!

      Reply
  • 29/01/2018 at 07:52
    Permalink

    I’ve always wanted to go to Marrakech, or Morocco in general for its culture and architecture. But wow the food looks amazing! You had me at that first photo of the salad. And then I keep scrolling down and find more delectable dishes. I am a foodie at heart so I really need to sample one of these (or ALL OF THEM!).

    Reply
    • 29/01/2018 at 14:26
      Permalink

      The food there was sooo amazing. One of my favorite dishes is Moroccan lentils. They are so freaking delicious. I’ll have to hunt down my photos of them 🙂

      Reply
  • 29/01/2018 at 08:56
    Permalink

    So jealoussss! We want to go so badly to Marrakech! The food is so good, how can you not lick your fingers right? haha. I can see ourselves double dipping by accident, totally. Right now to get our fix we go to the many many Morrocan restaurants in Dubai.

    Reply
  • 29/01/2018 at 17:52
    Permalink

    My fiance is from Saudi Arabia and I’m still trying to learn how to eat with my hands without making a mess! You offer great advice, especially not eating with your left hand. I’m fortunate that my fiance’s family allows me to have my own separate plate so I can learn how to scoop and attempt to not make a mess. I’m also currently drooling over all the food in your post!

    Reply
    • 30/01/2018 at 00:28
      Permalink

      As long as you’re not drooling in the bowl Martha. 😉 Haha. It is fun to learn. I’m glad to hear that your fiance’s family is helping you learn!

      Reply
  • 30/01/2018 at 00:07
    Permalink

    Haha! I can imagine your plight! I’ve had a couple of American friends visit me in India and they faced the same situation too. Its pretty much the same in India too – eat with hands, only right hand, don’t slurp, don’t lick fingers etc… Have you visited India? Do let me know if you’re planning to!

    Reply
    • 30/01/2018 at 00:31
      Permalink

      We have not visited India yet, but I would love to meet up when we do. We love to meet locals and see places that way.

      Reply
  • 30/01/2018 at 06:30
    Permalink

    These dishes look so delicious that make me hungry now even though I just had lunch. In Vietnam we use chopsticks to eat, so eating with right hand will be an interesting experience for me when I visit Morroco. I will remember not to lick my fingertips as well 🙂

    Reply
    • 30/01/2018 at 15:08
      Permalink

      Chopsticks! There’s another learning experience. I’ve gotten much better at them than I used to be but still have much more to learn 🙂

      Reply
  • 30/01/2018 at 06:58
    Permalink

    I can imagine your struggle, especially that I was in the same situation when I visited India for the first time. By the third time I went there, I was already an expert on how to eat with your hands. It does take some practice, but it’s not impossible. It’s all about how you keep the bread between your fingers and scoop the food with it. 🙂

    Reply
  • 30/01/2018 at 13:06
    Permalink

    that remind me my husbands story of a business trip in one of the Arab countries when he was sitting on the floor where in the middle they put a lamb and everyone was eating my hand! So strange. I would never wanna do it with a locals as I know myself and I would definitely lick my fingers 😀 and great fact about sushi! I remember ive got dirty look for eating them ” so unprofessional” using my hands haha but its so much easier! The food looks so great! I cant wait to visit Morocco!

    Reply
    • 30/01/2018 at 15:10
      Permalink

      Sushi should be eaten with the hands in most cases 🙂 We actually do it wrong here in the US where it’s almost always eaten with chopsticks.

      Reply
  • 31/01/2018 at 15:11
    Permalink

    I never got to try those Moroccan omelets — super jealous! I have no problems eating with my hands myself, as I saw my mother do it frequently growing up (she’s from the Philippines, though she would never do it anymore!). Glad to hear you adapted to it pretty quickly too! AND VERY good points about eating with clean hands and only using right hands!

    Reply
    • 31/01/2018 at 22:53
      Permalink

      Next time, Lauren. Next time, you’ll try the Moroccan omelet! The Moroccans really do have amazing food. I find it influenced my own cooking heavily after spending so much time there.

      Reply
  • 31/01/2018 at 15:53
    Permalink

    I’m an Indian, and I am so used to eat from hands that using silverware doesn’t come naturally to me. Although I am mastering it as art slowly now 😉 but eating with bare hands makes me feel that I enjoyed the food. But I agree, never eat with dirty hands and there are rules not to look creepy while eating with hands and you’ve jotted down perfectly 🙂

    Reply
    • 31/01/2018 at 22:42
      Permalink

      Shivani, I bet that’s an experience as well to use silverware when you’re not used to it. There’s a blog post for your blog 🙂 I so agree that eating with the hands is so much more intimate and was really enjoyable once we got used to it.

      Reply
  • 01/02/2018 at 02:38
    Permalink

    Nice little introduction to the Moroccan style of eating. Coming from India, we eat with our hands too so it’s common to follow the same practices as well. I usually find the “no licking fingers” part tricky especially if the food is finger lickin’ good.

    Reply
    • 01/02/2018 at 03:00
      Permalink

      LOL, that is what made it so hard not to lick the fingers. You want to get every little tasty morsel 🙂

      Reply
  • 03/02/2018 at 18:38
    Permalink

    This was a fun read. We have a similar culture in India of eating with right hand. There is absolutely no problem with licking fingers though – infact if you do it means you really liked the food and are gracious to the server.

    Reply
    • 04/02/2018 at 16:49
      Permalink

      Ketki, that’s good to know that licking the fingers is actually a compliment in India. Do you do it throughout the meal or just at the end?

      Reply
  • 08/02/2018 at 21:30
    Permalink

    So in southeastern Brazil we are the exact opposite. We use silverware for everything. My husband (then boyfriend) was really confused the first time he visited my family and was served a slice of watermelon with a knife and fork. He says (to me, after dinner and away from my folks): “That’s not how you eat watermelon… you eat watermelon on the back porch, with your hands, seeing how far you can spit out the seeds.” lol. We even eat pizza with a knife and fork. But since moving to Canada we’ve tried lots of different foods, and we enjoy some delicious naan bread with a nice bean dip or lentils. Yum!

    Reply
    • 09/02/2018 at 00:04
      Permalink

      LOL, I so LOVE learning about customs in other places. This world is an amazing place with so many amazing people. It sounds like the Brazilians are similar to the Brits and Scots, who also use silverware for everything 🙂

      Reply
  • Pingback:Airbnb User's Guide: How to Choose Your Airbnb Rentals ~ FlyAwayU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: