Mon, 03 May 2021 - 01:01 GMT
FILE - cooked fesikh - Facebook Page Kersh Keepers/Aya Ismail
CAIRO – 3 May 2021: Every year, Egyptians celebrate the Sham El-Nessim day in the Spring through coloring eggs, eating fermented or salted fish and gathering at public parks or beaches. Sham El-Nessim this year is today.
This year, many of the public parks and beaches nationwide will not receive visitors on that as per official directives due to the surge in coronavirus cases.
Fermented fish or ‘fesikh’, a traditional plate Egyptians eat throughout the year but especially on Sham El-Nessim, is also highly at stake this year.
That’s because it is, for the first time in years, corresponds with the Muslim’s fasting month of Ramadan.
Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day during the holy month so that they are not allowed to eat or drink anything during this period.
From sunset to dawn, they are allowed to eat and drink freely so that they can fast on the next day.
However, eating something that contains salt representing up to 17 percent of its weight is highly unwelcome as it can make them parched while fasting on the other day.
Fesikh is prepared through drying uncooked mullet under the sun and then submerged in containers filled with extremely salty water for several weeks.
“Fesikh loves water,” that’s an expression Egyptians use. When no water is allowed, then fesikh will be widely unpopular this year.
“I do not know why people love this thing! It is smelly and arguably unhealthy. I am a fish eating lover but this has nothing to do with fish,” Mohamed Mansi told Egypt Today.
“I do not really love to refuse or insult food but this is not food. I appreciate that Ramadan this year will be an almost unbreakable obstacle against fesikh eating,” Mansi added.
Almost every year, the Egyptian Health Ministry issues warnings against fesikh, definitely to no avail. Fesikh is very popular and while you may find it smelly, others find its smell extremely pleasant.
It is made at homes and also sold by famous shops and even street vendors.
The conflict between the two kinds of people was briefed in the high-rated Egyptian film “Assal Eswed” starred by Ahmed Helmy.
Helmy represented an Egyptian-American young man, Masry El-Araby, who was born in Egypt but lived for 20 years in the US. He decided then to come back to restore his nostalgic memories in Egypt.
Staying with his friend’s family, Araby for the first time saw people planning to eat that “smelly” thing and tried to warn them it is “spoiled”. He was then shocked by them telling him “its smell is the best part in it”.
After stubborn resistance, Araby then decides to taste it and then extremely loves and cannot even stop eating until he became sick.
While eating, he asks a fellow: “I ate too much that my stomach may ache,” so she replies: “Feiskh does not cause stomachache; you die or live”.
Especially amid a coronavirus surge as the country is suffering from a third coronavirus wave, the ministry warned that fesikh weakens the immune system and has caused food poisoning to many people.
The ministry warns that the high concentration of salt in fesikh can be severely harmful especially for those suffering from chronic and kidney diseases, pregnant women and children.
Fesikh’s preparation method mainly depends on providing an anaerobic environment in order for fish to be fermented and become fesikh, which is a suitable environment for the formation of this bacteria.
The ministry said this kind of bacteria produces poisons that can cause botulism.
Fesikh is not alone in the hearts of Egyptian people on Sham El-Nessim. There is also renga (herrings) and melouha, both are also salted fish that are a delicacy to many people.
Actually, the herring is fesikh’s most vicious competitor, while melouha is a delicacy for the people of the South.
“I never ate and will never eat fesikh. I love renga only, but also will not eat it this year; it will make me thirsty,” Hassanein Mohamed told Egypt Today.