Khlea: The Mystery Meat of Morocco

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Our trips to Morocco are always filled with incredible food experiences. We’ve learned all about curing olives, how to make Moroccan Harira soup, gone on a food tour, and eaten authentic tajine. On our last trip, we got the chance to see (and eat!) how Khlea, Morocco’s preserved meat, was made.

Khlea: Morocco’s Preserved Meat

Khlea, also known as Khlii and خليع, is Morocco’s famous “mystery meat.” It is a preserved meat usually made from lamb which has been cut into strips, marinated with spices like cumin, coriander, and garlic. It is then dried in the hot sun for a few days, and cooked in a mixture of animal fat, oil and water in order to preserve it for up to 2 years.

Back before refrigerators were common household appliances, preserving meats served a practical purpose: the need to keep meats from going bad within a short period of time was extremely important.

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Little pieces of khlea (with fat) on a tajine

You’ll still find people in rural areas that rely on khlea techniques for storing their meat, and they often make it large quantities annually, especially during Eid. Today, however, most Moroccans purchase khlea simply because they enjoy the unique flavor it adds into their traditional Moroccan dishes.

Tasting Khlea For The First Time

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Typical breakfast setting in Morocco

Whenever you mention khlea to tourists, most people recoil in horror at the thought of eating a preserved meat. There’s a pre-conceived notions of what it’s supposed to taste like. It even made it on an episode of Bizarre Foods by Andrew Zimmern.

While for some it can be a bit of an acquired taste, to us, it tasted a lot like lamb jerky that’s been preserved in a lot of fat. We absolutely love eating it with eggs at breakfast – definitely has to be one of the best breakfast dishes we’ve ever tasted in Morocco.

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Just as you see in the video above, the meat along with the fat it has been rendered in, is cut into small pieces, and cooked with eggs in a tajine. It is then placed on the breakfast table for all to share, and goes great with fresh Moroccan bread.

The next time you’re thinking about what to eat for breakfast in Morocco, order some khlea with eggs! 

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