Situated northeast of Jemaa el Fna in the Marrakech medina is a very popular pastry and juice shop called Pâtisserie & Jus AL Jaouda (or Al Jawda, according to TripAdvisor). Within a half-mile radius of this bakery you’ll see boys and girls snacking on their ginormous milles-feuilles, which is quite clearly their flagship product and the local favorite. Other French classics like croissants, jalousie cakes, crêpes with fruit, almond sablé cookies and gâteau are sold alongside Moroccan pastries: triangle-shaped vegetable briwats, cigar-shaped meat briwats, m’hancha (a coil-shaped puff pastry with almonds and orange-blossom water), crunchy deep-fried chebakia and cornes de gazelle. The juice list is stunning: orange, apple, banana, date, strawberry, peach, pear, prune, avocado, kaki, papaya, mango, kiwi, pineapple, raisins and any combo of the latter.
In the mood for something crunchy and salty, we went with a pastilla au poulet (which I’ve also seen written as bastilla au poulet). This is a North African specialty, most popular in Morocco and Algeria. Layers of werqa dough (similar to phyllo) are brushed with melted butter and arranged over one another, then topped with a filling of chicken, which is first slow-cooked in a broth full of spices and then shredded to tender bits. The cooking liquid of the chicken is thickened with egg into a custard-like sauce, which is then added to the filling. A layer of finely crushed fried almonds, flavored with cinnamon and powdered sugar, is also added before the dough is folded up over the filling and baked. Fresh out of the oven, the pastry is served with some extra chopped almonds, cinnamon and powdered sugar sprinkled over the top.
A Moroccan chicken pastilla is the perfect treat for those who love the combination of sweet and salty flavors. Unfortunately for me, this is not my thing. Despite an otherwise fairly versatile palate, I have a pronounced distaste for meat cooked with sweet flavors, which is probably a result of a dwindling tolerance for sugar overall. Either way, I appreciate this little pastry and will be recommending it to friends lucky enough to explore the culinary treasures of Marrakech.