Moroccans boil, steam, fry, stew, bake and grill food as many people all over the world. But there are 4 distinct basic styles in Moroccan cuisine, 2 red and 2 yellow.
(mhammar, mhammer, means «red»)
The meat becomes red during cooking. In the end of process a cook takes meat out of sauce and fries it. Than he puts it back. Paprika powder and cumin are a must. Chili (or harissa), garlic and ginger are often added. A cook should use a lot of oil. Usually meat is cooked without any vegetables. Various salads accompany the dish.
(mchermel, mcharmel, mshermel, means «marinated»)
The 2d red style. Meat is marinated in red chermoula. Then the dish is cooked with additional chermoula and sometimes tomatoes (or tomato paste). If you have only marinated the meat in red chermoula doesn’t mean that you cook it m’chermel style. Because you can marinate the meat and cook it m’hammar or m’qalli style.
(m’qualli, mqalli, mkalli, means «fry»)
In European traditions cooks usually brown the meat (while frying) in the beginning of process. M’qalli method is vice versa – first the meat is stewed for a long time and in the end of process (when the meat absorbed the broth and became tender) it is fried until it gets browned.
Compulsory spices are ginger, saffron and curcuma (which is added in order to get traditional yellow colour). M’qalli dishes may be both: sweet (with cinnamon) or savory (with cilantro, garlic, onion and parsley). If you cook m’qalli the right way, it will produce daghmira (a sauce of onion that separates from frying oil).
(qadra, also it is the name of a special deep Moroccan pot for cooking)
Yellow colour comes from saffron and curcuma. Compulsory ingredients are black or/and white pepper, cinnamon, parsley and smen (fermented salty butter). Ginger is never used in this style.
As it comes from the name of style – tajine is never used for this method. Sauce is usually quite liquid, like a broth. While the other methods are for main courses, q’dra may also be used for a soup. Q’dra is a parent style to its subdivision – tfaya.
(tfaya, tfaia, tafaya)
Mainly sweet (sometimes spicy) dishes. Obligatory ingredients are onions, black pepper, coriander, saffron and cinnamon. Almonds, chickpea and raisins are often added.
Some t’faya dishes include caramelized (after long stewing in honey/sugar) onions together with raisins. Caramelized onion-raisin can be served as a garnish or top couscous.
Some more differences
Moroccan cooks never add paprika and cumin to yellow styles (q’dra and m’qalli). While saffron may be added to red styles (m’hammar and m’chermel), though taste of saffron won’t be distinct. Preserved (salted) lemons may be used in any style except q’dra.