First Published: 2011-08-19

 

Moroccan snails: from street food to upscale snack

 

Moroccan entrepreneur launches upscale version of cherished 'boubouch' snack often sold by roadside vendors.

 

Middle East Online

By Charlotte Cans and Henri Mamarbachi - RABAT

'There is always demand'

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.

'Everyone is eating them'

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.

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.

 

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Hundreds protest in Iran after horrendous acid attacks

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Masdar to build first large-scale wind farm in GCC

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane

Vote or boycott: Grim record of self-serving politicians puts off voters in Tunisia

Egypt universities tighten security to avoid new Islamist violence

Iran forces inside Iraq as Abadi rules out foreign ground intervention!

South Sudan rivals meet in new bid to end civil war

From Morocco into Spain: Crowd of African migrants charges to border fence

Deadly suicide attack targets Shiite mosque in central Baghdad

Turkey gives Iraq Peshmerga forces passage to Kobane

Israel to supply Egypt with natural gas despite sabotage

Kerry seeks help of Southeast Asia in anti-Islamic State push

Qaeda inflicts heavy losses on Huthi rebels in central Yemen

US carries out first weapon airdrops to Kurd fighters near Kobane

Benghazi violence kills 75 people in five days

Morocco accuses Algeria of firing on civilians across border

Australia finalises deal for deployment of Special Forces to Iraq

Tunisia calls on Libya authorities to locate missing journalists

Turkey rejects calls to arm ‘terrorist’ Kurdish party in Syria