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.

 

60 killed in suicide bomb attack on Yemen army camp

Libyan forces corner IS fighters in last Sirte holdouts

18 killed in suicide attack in Iraq oasis town

Tunisia's new unity government takes office

In Saudi city of Najran, Huthis commit war crimes with indiscriminate rockets

3 Saudi children killed in Yemen cross-border shelling

Turkey's bombings kill civilians in northern Syria

Iran arrests 'nuclear spy'

Egypt frees renowned rights lawyer, Malek Adly

Libya forces launch ‘final battle for Sirte’

Dozens killed as Turkey ramps up unprecedented offensive in Syria

Iraq officially asks Saudi Arabia to change ambassador

Yemen government cautiously welcomes US peace plan

Yemen shelling kills three-year-old boy in Saudi border region

Turkey sends more tanks into Syria to bolster military offensive

Turkey arrests former top diplomats over failed coup

Tunisia swears in new premier after approval from parliament

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian in occupied West Bank

11 Turkish police officers killed in Cizre bomb attack claimed by PKK

French court suspends burkini ban

Tears as evacuation starts in Syria's Daraya

Turkey PM denies Syria operation singling out Kurds

Kerry, Lavrov meet for talks on Syria

Tunisia parliament to vote on cabinet proposal

Kuwait arrests govt employee promoting IS online

Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Syria after warning

Oil prices fall on Saudi doubt on output cut

Jeddah meeting bears no fruit on Yemen conflict

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet