Moroccan snails: from street food to upscale snack

Standing on the side of a road in a hectic north African capital may not be what most people would consider the ideal place to eat boiled snails.

Diners inclined to try 'escargots' may think of it as a dish best prepared by an expert chef and reserved for special occasions, like a visit to a French restaurant.

But in Morocco, snails are street food and have been for decades.

"We sell snails all year. There is always demand, everywhere in Morocco. I've been doing this work for 25 years," said Abderrahim, a snail-seller drowsily working under the sun near the central plaza in Rabat, the Moroccan capital.

In Rabat, on the country's west coast, escargots - called boubouch or b'bouch - are served at roadside stalls and in the souks, the traditional open-air markets.

The snails on offer are low in fat and high in protein and magnesium, similar to those found in Spain or in the south of France, but the preparation - and presentation - is not what you'd find at a French bistro where a garlic butter sauce is the norm.

In Morocco, snails are simmered in a broth seasoned with aniseed, licorice root, thyme, sweet and spicy pepper, mint, bitter orange peel, and crushed gum arabic, an ingredient taken from acacia trees.

When the stewed molluscs are ready, they're scooped out of the pot by the roadside vendor with a large wooden ladle.

Tourists walking by regularly take note of the dish but rarely sample the contents, vendors said.

-'Everyone is eating them' -

But one Moroccan entrepreneur recently launched an upscale version of the cherished snack for those queasy about buying escargots from roadside vendors, where they may feel cleanliness is an issue.

Mohamed Alaoui Abdallaoui's specially designed truck tours Rabat's trendier neighbourhoods and delivers the spicy simmered snails to clients right at their front door.

"I hope that other (competitors) will follow, so that we can offer Moroccan clientele a range of choices that are safe, clean and high-quality," Abdallaoui explained, speaking French, the language of the country's former colonial power.

Though long a domestic delicacy, most Moroccan snails - which are handpicked mainly by women and children - are exported, notably to Spain. In fact, the government's social development agency, ADS, said between 80 to 85 percent of some 10,000 tonnes of snails harvested each year are shipped abroad.

The ADS has tried to promote increased food production as one its projects designed to help the millions of Moroccans mired in poverty, like many of the women and children who collect the snails.

Abdallaoui's customers, at any rate, are thrilled.

"We got used to eating these with our parents when we were small," said Youssef, a regular client of the mobile escargot truck. "But this is clean, it's well organised, and there is no need to worry about the hygiene."

Sihan is another client now hooked on snail home delivery.

"It's the real, traditional snail we used to have at home. It's delicious, we love it. Look, everyone is eating them," he said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor