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In Morocco the word awerwar refers to gum arabic or acacia gum, the hardened sap of the Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal trees, which are common to sub-Sahara Africa as well as Arabia, Egypt and West Asia.
Gum arabic may also be called meska, but the usage of this word in Moroccan Arabic can cause confusion. That’s because the term meska horra denotes mastic, the hardened resin from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). While the two look similar and small amounts of mastic and gum arabic may be substituted for each other in Moroccan recipes, mastic is often preferred for its flavor.
Culinary Uses of Gum Arabic
Gum arabic is used in the making of confections, soft drinks, food flavorings, food sweeteners and more. It or mastic can be found in tiny amounts in some Moroccan recipes such as Sweet Moroccan Pumpkin Paste and a confection called sellou. The small pieces or drops of gum arabic are are added to 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and then ground to a powder with the back of a spoon or with a pestle and mortar. (The sugar prevents the gum arabic from sticking as it’s crushed.)
Non-Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Gum Arabic
Non-culinary uses of gum arabic include the production of fireworks, paints, ink, glue, ceramic glazes, textiles, cosmetics and more. In traditional medicine, gum arabic has been used to treat sore throats, stomach and intestinal problems, kidney ailments, eye problems and other disorders.
Christine Benlafquih is Founding Editor at Taste of Maroc and owner of Taste of Casablanca, a food tour and culinary activity business in Casablanca. A long time resident of Morocco, she’s written extensively about Moroccan cuisine and culture. She was the Moroccan Food Expert for The Spruce Eats (formerly About.com) from 2008 to 2016.