Sugar is sold in a variety of forms in Morocco, including the large sugar cone in this picture. Known as qaalib al-sukar in Arabic ("molded sugar"), and pain de sucre in French ("loaf of sugar"), it's the preferred sugar for sweetening Moroccan tea. Some Moroccans claim that it not only has a better taste than regular sugar, it's the secret to creating a frothy head or "turban" on the tea when it's poured.
The sugar cones are almost rock-solid, and a bit resistant to breaking into neat pieces. Some Moroccan women can deftly whack off chunks with the bottom of a sturdy tea glass, but given the trouble I have breaking up the sugar with a heavy brass pestle, I dare not try the glass routine.
It's Moroccan tradition to give the sugar cones as gifts to mark family events. We received a carton of the sugar cones upon the birth of one of our babies, and also received a carton from someone who came to pay condolences when a family member died. The first time we received the sugar, I was baffled and didn't know the cones were sugar. I actually thought someone had given us a box of salt licks for livestock.
Now I'm wiser, and tonight I even used some of the cone sugar to make a pot of plain Green Tea. My kids tasted the difference instantly. I have to wonder if they've become little tea connoisseurs, or if I simply over sweetened the tea with too-big of a chunk.
See the glossary listing for sukar to learn the names of other types of sugar in Morocco, such as granulated sugar and powdered sugar.
Photo © Christine Benlafquih
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