In the Kitchen with Wahid Naciri
Owner of Casablanca
Casablanca needs no introduction to foreigners living in Itaewon and Noksapyeong areas. For four years, Wahid Naciri has been making tasty sandwiches inspired by his home country’s cuisine in Morocco.
What most people don’t realize is Casablanca was close to being a fine dining restaurant. And the thousands of people Wahid has fed since opening, would’ve been poorer for it. After studying cooking for 2 years, he had ambitions to open up a fancy place with elevated Moroccan food, and wrestled with what direction his restaurant would take.
Originally coming here to study Korean over 10 years ago, Wahid now calls Korea home. He’s seen Haebangchon and the surrounding area transform over the years. And in some ways, he misses the old days when he would know most of the people coming in. But he also loves how Koreans’ tastes have changed. Whereas a few years ago he’d get the occasional Korean guest tentatively trying his food, he now sees Korean “tourists” in the area embracing the unique flavors from around the world.
7 Questions with Wahid
Why did you name the restaurant “Casablanca”? W: People aren’t familiar with Moroccan cuisine so “Casablanca” is an easily recognizable name. And when you’re presenting foreign food in Korea, you can’t be subtle about it. It’s my way of shouting “Moroccan food!”
What should people get at Casablanca? W: The Moroccan chicken is our best seller, but I actually prefer the lamb. It has a nice, deep flavor.
What are your favorite dishes to make or eat? W: I love to make and eat hergma, which is cow feet with chickpeas and raisins.
What is your favorite ingredient to work with? W: Ras el hanout, which is a North African spice mix.
Where do you like to eat? W: There’s a dahk gomtang (Korean chicken soup) place in Namdaemun that is delicious. Closer to home, Baraboom in Hannamdong has an excellent menu that is always changing.
What do you miss about Morocco? W: Space. I miss driving along the coast in the open air and just having a lot of space around me.
If you could speak to yourself when you were first opening Casablanca, what would you say? W: [Gives a long pause] That everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to be.
Casablanca 44-7 Yongsan-dong 2ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Tue – Sun 1pm -10 pm, closed Mon 02-797-8367