Step two : Take it to Bouchra
Zoubida is the oyster lady at Parc Dar Kachon stand in the middle of the market. Apparently she is the matriarch of the Central Market and has been there every day for 39 years. She fed us oysters on the half shell as we stood there. And she explained to us this beautiful system in the central market of Casa. Pick out any fish you want, several different kinds, in the portion that you want and then take it to one of the restaurants inside the market and have them prepare it for you any way you want for a tiny supplement.
Zoubida set us up on the first day. We bought a couple of oysters from her and snails (Might I add that the snails were so good they could put some Burgundian restaurants to shame!)
And we went to one of her neighboring fishmongers and bought sepia (baby calamari), two giant red shrimp and some of the freshest sweetest small shrimp I’ve ever had.
At Bouchra’s we sat in the sun and instantly the waiter sprinted over to set up the table with a paper mat and a fork. Almost immediately we were brought some bread and a fresh tomato and cucumber salad. Very flavorful, though so simple. We just barely had time to start eating when our fish appeared. The cooking times were perfect. Nothing was over cooked. The giant red shrimp were almost undercooked, actually! Incredible! But it just showed off the impeccable freshness of the fish.
We asked if it was possible to have beer. In a Muslim country, its not always clear when alcohol is possible. The guy sprinted off and what seemed like a long time later he came back with two little bottles wrapped in newspapers. He ran away for mineral water too. It’s an interesting system. The place has virtually no stock of anything. As customers come, more bread is ordered from the baker. As people order drinks, the waiter sprints to one of the vendors and buys whatever is requested. Want more fish? He’ll run and get it for you. Its as if you pay for his legs.
We liked this place so much that we went back 3 days in a row. For lunch. The central market closes around five PM. We had only fish, but on the last day, we saw one client bring meet and vegetables to have them cooked for lunch.
We even managed to get a bottle of Rosé. A one-liter bottle with a plastic stopper. Very low in alcohol. In France, I’d probably think it was plonk, just by looking at the label, but it sure tasted good there. Wrapped again in newspaper. At 10-11° Alc, it was as thirst quenching as water, but still as gay and uplifting as a Rosé.
We varied very little from our shrimp and calamari and every time the cookings were perfect! So impressed by this we went to see who was actually cooking the stuff. Although the waiter appeared to be the boss, he was sprinting around too much to be responsible for the perfection of the cuisine. There was a boy working the grill who spoke no French or English. And a veiled girl who spoke good French. She was shy but quick to claim full responsibility for all of the cooking besides the grill.
‘Your cooking times are perfect!”
“Thank you”, she looked down.
“Where did you learn to cook this way?” the Duc asked her.
“In culinary school.”
We were dumfounded! Such talent. Such skill. Right here in this tiny market. In a non-descript street restaurant. One would never suspect it!
Before leaving, I asked her to write down her name in my notebook. Bouchra.
“And what is the name of this restaurant?” I asked, realizing that there was no sign out or anything differentiating this restaurant from the others.
So I couldn’t figure out if her name was the name of the place or if she hadn’t understood my question.
I’d go back and spend more time right there on that little terrace. Eating Bouchra’s cooked fish. It’s a perfect place to watch the world go by.