Discovering Medfouna: Stuffed Pizza of Rissani, Morocco

Medfouna, stuffed pizza, Morocco, Rissani, Sahara Desert

Medfouna–a regional delicacy of eastern Morocco–is best described as a stuffed pizza, without the cheese. You’ll find it in many villages between Erfoud and Merzouga, but its true birthplace is Rissani.

If you’re planning a Sahara Desert expedition to the Erg Chebbi dunes, don’t leave without tasting medfouna. We drove 2 hours roundtrip to try it. And we would do it all over again, in a heartbeat!

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Top 10 Medfouna facts

  1. nickname: Berber pizza
  2. what it is: Moroccan stuffed pizza, without cheese
  3. translation: the Arabic word medfouna means “buried”
  4. preparation: Moroccan flatbread dough stuffed with meat (cow or lamb), diced onions & spices
  5. traditional cooking technique: bake in a fire pit for 30-60 minutes (depending on size)
  6. alternative cooking technique: many restaurants & local Berber families bake it in a mud oven
  7. served with: hot mint tea–a palate-balancer, said to cut & contrast the flavor of fat from the meat
  8. originally from: Rissani, Morocco (eastern Sahara; Erg Chebbi dunes)
  9. where we tried it: Gite Café Restaurant Manzah in Rissani
  10. what else? it’s delicious
Medfouna, stuffed pizza, Morocco, Rissani, Sahara Desert
The Arabic word “medfouna” means “buried.” What’s buried under this particular crust? Beef, onions & spices.

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A meal worth crossing the desert for

After our unexpected musical experience with The Desert Pigeons, we bid farewell to the village of Khamlia and drove north to try medfouna in its hometown of Rissani.

Special thank you to our friend Hicham for suggesting this road trip!

Medfouna, stuffed pizza, Morocco, Rissani, Sahara Desert
Gite Café Restaurant Manzah: view from the outside, looking in.
Medfouna, stuffed pizza, Morocco, Rissani, Sahara Desert
Gite Café Restaurant Manzah: view from the inside, looking out.

Starters

Our meal at Restaurant Manzah lasted around 90 minutes. For the first hour, we snacked on Moroccan salad and a customary basket of fresh Moroccan bread while the chefs prepared and baked the medfouna.

Medfouna time

When it came time for the main course, the entire staff emerged from the kitchen. The chef led the procession, carrying the circular wooden board. On top: his masterpiece, cut into 8 slices.

We could tell the staff had put a lot of work and passion into preparing the dish. They weren’t merely serving a meal; they were sharing a piece of their culture with foreigners. The sense of pride was evident. The presentation was dramatic, but fitting.

Medfouna, stuffed pizza, Morocco, Rissani, Sahara Desert
The main event of Rissani: medfouna.

During the meal, the restaurant’s owner joined us at the table, greeting us warmly in Arabic, French and English, consecutively. He then alternated conversation back and forth between us (in English) and Hicham (in Arabic). It was a nice touch.

Dessert in the desert

We weren’t done yet. Another enormous family-style platter emerged from the kitchen, piled high with fresh fruit: watermelon and a mystery melon.

We’re still unable to identify the mystery melon, which was described as a mix of melon and pineapple. It looks like cantaloupe, but it’s sweeter & juicier. It could be this or this, but we’re not quite sure.

If anyone out there can help us solve this melon mystery, please comment below or send us an email!

After 2 medfouna slices each–plus nearly a full melon–we were stuffed 😉

The remaining slices were wrapped in aluminum foil and taken to go. They were as delicious the next day as they were at the restaurant.

At last, it was time to say goodbye to the restaurant owner & kitchen staff. Restaurant Manzah gave us an authentic and highly personal eating experience we’ll never forget. And so ended our medfouna journey to Rissani.

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We hope you have a chance to try medfouna, the under-discovered treasure of the Moroccan desert. When you do, give us a shout. We’d love to hear what you think!

For now, we’re off on our next adrenaline-fueled adventure.

Cheers!

-DnA

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