Several readers have asked about Moroccan foods in Charlotte. Most have inquired about merguez, a fresh, spicy Moroccan sausage. This popular North African sausage is made with a mixture of finely ground lamb, sometimes with beef, and harissa (a chili spice blend), cumin and garlic. In Morocco, merguez flavors tagines and is often sided with couscous. In France, grilled merguez slathered with Dijon is a popular street food.
Traditional merguez must be halal. The word halal means permissible in Arabic. In order to be halal, meat must be raised and slaughtered in a specific manner according to Islamic Law. These mandates include a natural diet and that the animal must be slaughtered while conscious via exsanguination (bled out). (Note: this is a requirement for Judaic kashrut as well.) Charlotte has several halal butcher shops.
At Halal International (3120 N. Sharon Amity Road), merguez is made several times a week by the Moroccan butcher. His recipe, I'm told, has been handed down through generations in his family. This merguez is a flavorful mix of lamb and beef stuffed into the traditional sheep casing ($6.99 per pound).
Oddly, merguez is not on the menu at Casablaca Café, 9609 N. Tryon St., which started life as a Moroccan eatery, but has since morphed into a blended menu of various culinary traditions.
Merguez is similar to — but not with the same flavor profile as — sujak, an Armenian beef sausage popular in Syria and Lebanon, and found throughout Turkey, Greece and their neighboring countries. Sujak is subject to regional differences. Syrian-styled all-beef sujak is made at The Halal Market & Deli (3145 N. Sharon Amity Road), across the street from Halal International.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: [email protected].