Friday, May 3, 2013

Khoudenjal (aka "Moroccan Viagra")


Khoudenjal or " Moroccan Viagra" is sold outside mosques, and specifically Djmaa El Fna (the main square), in Marrakech. The medicinal qualities of this drink have been proven. However, its aphrodisiacal properties are still up for debate.


A recent excursion to Marrakech inspired me to investigate a delicious spicy potion that can be found in the midst of the bustling Djmaa el Fna - a square whose name roughly translates to "Assembly of the Dead". Dubbed "Moroccan Viagra" or "Poor Viagra" by the locals, one can easily imagine the intended purposed of this potent tea formally known as Khoudenjal.








The seller boils the spice blend with water in a large copper pot (see photo). The infusion is served piping hot in a glass, and often accompanied with a scoop or two of a sweet dry pudding, covered with toasted sesame seeds, with an equally strong, spicy taste. 


Khoudenjal is a sweet infusion made of lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum), along with a handful of other flavorful spices, which include cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, black pepper and star anise. 

Galangal is a medicinal plant imported from Asia and is closely related to ginger. The rhizome resembles ginger, but is more slender and darker in color. These two roots have a similar scent and flavor and have been used similarly for medicinal purposes. In regards to its medicinal qualities, it fights against fungi and helps eliminate gas and nausea. 


This spice was well-known in European medieval cooking. Considering the fact that galangal was first introduced to Europe about a thousand years ago, it is extremely surprising how little it is known today. The word galangal is probably derived from the Arabic translation of its Chinese name, liang-tiang, which means “mild ginger”. 

Arab traders first brought it back from Southeast Asia, but it wasn't until about 200 years ago that it was botanically identified.

Galangal has also long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and stimulant that was used for men and horses to make them "spunkier". Having almost sunk into oblivion from its previous eminent position, this rhizome has recently made a come back, via the backdoor of Chinese and Asian eateries that have sprung up in all parts of Europe and North America over past three decades. And thus, these days it is more commonly known and used as a spice than as a medicine. 

So, is Khoudenjal really an aphrodisiac? 

A study by the Moroccan Association for Protection and Guidance of Consumers (AMPOC) refuted this claim. Bouazza Kherrati, President of the association, said that "vendors of Khoudenjal are wrong to attribute aphrodisiac properties and call it a natural "Viagra". No scientific study has determined that finding. And if the consumer feels that this product stimulates sexual desire in him, this is because the vendor has added Viagra or other chemicals to his magic potion." 

Personally, I didn't experience these aphrodisiacal effects, but its intoxicating spicy warmth on a cool night was just as satisfying :)


    Toasting to Mohammed's fine blend at Chez Mohammed (stall #71)






In spice heaven at a local shop in the medina (old city)






3 comments:

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