Couscous, which takes its name from the Berber word seksou, is known as the national dish of Morocco. Typically presented as an impressive mound topped by savory meat and vegetable stews, couscous is usually served from a large communal vessel – be it a platter or gsaa – with each person eating from his own side of the plate.
The couscous itself is actually a diminutive form of pasta, traditionally shaped by hand-rolling semolina flour with water until the requisite balls begin to distinguish themselves from the finer semolina. The newly-shaped couscous is then passed through a sieve to separate larger balls from smaller ones, or to give consistent size to the couscous taking shape.
Rather than hand-rolling, many Moroccan cooks now buy their couscous in a dry form. Both freshly rolled couscous and dry couscous are cooked by steaming the couscous several times in a couscoussier. This allows each couscous grain to become plump and tender without clumping to each other.
Instant couscous, widely available in Western supermarkets, is reconstituted by the simple addition of hot broth or liquid. Instant couscous is not regarded very highly by Moroccans and should not be confused with the dry couscous which must be steamed.
Types of CouscousAlthough semolina is the most popular and traditional variety of couscous in Morocco, other kinds are also prepared:
- Couscous Belboula - barley couscous prepared by steaming large barley grits
- Couscous Zraa' - wheat couscous, prepared by steaming bulgur wheat
- Baddaz - corn meal couscous, made by steaming coarse corn grits