On our recent trip to Morocco some of my most memorable experiences had to do with food. Our first full day in Morocco we were walking through the medina in Fez (Fes in French and pronounced "Fess" when speaking to locals who speak English) with our guide, Hassan. We came across a vendor selling snails. I was gob-smacked - the vendor had snails hanging in net bags from the top of his stall and two large baskets full of snails on the stall counter. On closer inspection, I saw what looked like regular, slimy, garden snails, grouped in bunches of hundreds, many with their familiar-looking antennae stretched out of their shells. Hassan told us that snail soup is very popular and we told him we would love to try it. The vendor allowed us to take pictures but made sure he was safely out of the way so he did not appear in any of them.
|This side view of the stall shows hanging snails, snails in baskets and posters about snails that were unintelligible to us. Between the vendor sitting in front and the narrowness of the passage-way, we were not able to get a good front-on photo.|
|Posters on the snails. It looks like the poster is showing different snail varieties.|
|Basket of snails and a plastic scoop.|
|Many bags of hanging snails, both in front and back in the stall.|
|A closer view of the snails shows many of them venturing their bodies out of their shells.|
The next day after a tour of Volubilis, Moulay Idriss and Meknes, Hassan was showing us back to our riad (small hotel) and stopped at a stall selling snail soup. For six dirhams each, about 60 cents in U.S. currency, we each got a cup of snails with soup (mostly cooked snails in their shells filling the cup and some broth in the bottom) and a separate cup of the broth. The snails were fully cooked in their shells and we were instructed to use accompanying tooth picks to spear the snails and get them out of their shells. I quickly got tired of that process and found it much quicker to fish them out with my fingers.
|The vendor selling snail soup - his large pot in front.|
|The poster above his stall shows the snail pot as well as bags of hanging snails.|
|Two bowls of snail soup and a container of toothpicks.|
|I hold up a cooked snail.|
|Judy spears a snail out of the shell with a toothpick.|
The broth was from the big pot the snails were cooking in. Hassan showed us a bag of the spices used in the broth and the vendor scooped a bowl full of shells out of the pot, using a large ladle, so that we could take a picture.
|A ladle of shells from the big pot of snails and broth.|
The snails were a bit earthy, but not off-putting. Hassan said something about taking just the top end of the snail and avoiding the stomach, but I ate whatever pulled out of the shell and it was fine. The broth was quite strong, I choked and started to cough on my first swig, but got used to it and found it quite fine. I think it would be really good for a cold or someone with the flu (see the link to a CNN article on street food in Morocco and the segment on snail soup).
This was one of the memorable adventures we had in discovering local culture and much more fun than the tagine after tagine we encountered in the riads and local restaurants.