Our Wellington

News | 12 January 2021

Behind the Stalls: Hassan El Kour

In Behind the Stalls, we visit some of the colourful characters of Wellington waterfront’s Harbourside Market. In the seventh of 10 stories, we meet Hassan El Kour of Zaaffran: A Taste of Morocco.

Hassan El Kour, dressed in a black cheffing uniform, smiling while he cooks up traditional Moroccan cuisine from his food truck.

A man of many talents, Hassan El Kour has lived no ordinary life.

From Morocco, he grew up as a nomad, living off the land. At age 11, he was learning to cook while working with a spice merchant in Casablanca. And then he went on to be a restaurateur and musical instrument maker. 

Now you will find Hassan catering events and serving up traditional Moroccan cuisine from his food truck around Wellington, including at Miramar Wharf (on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) and at Harbourside Market on the waterfront (on Sundays, 8am-3pm).

At Zaaffran: A Taste of Morocco, Hassan roasts and grinds his own spices and uses locally sourced ingredients to create popular street food dishes and wraps, which are inspired by traditional home recipes like tagine.

“My mum is a nomad and their lives are all about the land. They move from place to place. They cure themselves with herbs. We grew up making our own cheese, milk, butter, bread, everything – we grew the grain for the bread, for couscous – everything was made from scratch.

“I took what I learnt from my family and I try and bring it here, serving home cooking as a street food. The meat and flavours are all cooked tagine-style which I learnt over time from my family and from my work.”

Hassan began working life younger than most.

“I left school at 11. My first job was marinating olives, making harissa, preserving pickles and lemons – we’d sell them and spices.”

He went on to have a partnership in a restaurant, and a musical instrument shop.

“My wife used to live in England. She came to Morocco as a tourist. I used to play the drums and make instruments. I met my partner while teaching her African drumming.”

Now the couple have three girls, who Hassan enjoys passing his widespread knowledge onto.

He has been frequenting Harbourside Market since 2012, and says he loves the weekly event and diversity of people who attend.

“Harbourside Market has always been the best market in Wellington. It’s where you’ll find all ages from young babies and up, a lot of families, visitors, and local Wellingtonians. It’s well managed and we always feel free, we always feel welcome, we always feel part of it.”

A red food truck, which serves Moroccan cuisine,  parked at the Harbourside Market, with customers waiting for their orders.

But the highlight for Hassan has to be his customers.

“We have the same customers coming back and we become friends. Building relationships over time, people become a friend more than a customer.”