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
News
people
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine