On the Gaza Strip, an exquisite dish based on local fish has always been prepared, a symbol of the seafaring tradition of fishermen in Palestine
The only Palestinian part left facing the sea is the Gaza Strip. Here there is a great seafaring tradition of fishermen, which over time, for obvious and well-known reasons, has increasingly weakened. But what instead cannot be canceled or occupied is the habit in the homes of Gazans, the inhabitants of Gaza, of preparing sayadieh, one of the few fish-based dishes in Palestine, given that it is a predominantly agricultural and therefore of a more meat and vegetable oriented cuisine.
The seafaring tradition of the Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip, which takes its name from its main city, is a coastal region of Palestine overlooking the Mediterranean Sea: 360 km² of surface, bordering Egypt, and an ancient maritime tradition linked to fishing. A tradition that over the years, due to the Israeli occupation, has been increasingly limited. As is well known, in fact, Israel controls any movement that enters or leaves Gaza (and Palestine in general); and the fishing sector is just one of many. Thus the Gazan fishermen have decreased over time, also because the restrictions on access to the sea have become increasingly strict, until the final blow last August, when Israel completely closed the fishing area. First, the commercial transit of Kerem Shalom, one of Gaza's three main passages to Israel and Egypt, was blocked, preventing the crossing of any goods, except for essential humanitarian aid and fuel. Then the fishing area available for fishermen was reduced from 15 to 8 nautical miles away; and finally everything was stopped, including the passage of fuel. And the sea is not the only problem with water in Palestine: it is enough to be there on a rainy day to notice the disastrous conditions in which the drainage systems are pouring. Yet this hasn't stopped Gazans from continuing to prepare sayadieh, a simple and popular fish-based dish.
What is sayadieh
Sayadieh is the symbolic dish of Gaza's seafaring tradition, the one that has always been prepared in the homes of fishermen and, in general, of the Palestinians who live in this small piece of coast that has remained to them. This is the sea version of the maqloubeh, since also in this case, after having cooked all the ingredients together, you have to turn the rice pot over onto the serving tray. In sayadieh, however, instead of meat and vegetables, fresh local fish is used that is available, usually white, such as cod, hake or monkfish. As a condiment, however, there is never a shortage of spices, including zaatar, which in Palestine is considered the herb of the soul. The name derives from a variety of thyme that grows wild in fields, but indicates a set with sumac, sesame seeds and other variables depending on the mix. But even this plant is now at risk of extinction, as Israel has begun to ban the harvest. For this reason, the zaatar has become a sort of symbol of resistance, the emblem of controversies and resilience. "You will never give up, we will resist salt and zaatar," they say. In fact, it is one of the most used ingredients in Palestinian cuisine, especially for marinating meat and fish, just like in sayadieh. For this reason, if you decide to prepare this dish at home, do not absolutely miss the zaatar, also because now it is practically everywhere.
The sayadieh recipe
To prepare this dish, you can use any white, hard-boiled fish. For rice, on the other hand, ribe is perfect, but also carnaroli; or, if you prefer, you can also use basmati. Someone accompanies the sayadieh with a sauce based on tahini, water, parsley, lemon and chilli, but it remains a variant to taste. And, I recommend, as in the case of the maqloubeh, always pay close attention to the moment of overturning the rice!
1 kg of fish fillets
1/2 kg rice
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ginger
½ tablespoon of cinnamon
to taste black pepper
chili pepper to taste
garlic to taste
to taste zaatar
salt to taste
to taste water
flour to taste
to taste a glass of olive oil
1. Soak the fish filleted and cut into pieces with garlic, cumin, salt, lemon and zaatar for about half an hour (the longer the better).
2. Sauté onion cut into strips; then drain it and leave the oil in the pan.
3. Bread the fish with flour and fry it in that oil.
4. In the meantime, rinse the rice with hot water to remove some of the starch, then put it in a pot.
5. Put the previously browned onion, sliced tomatoes and a layer of fish in a large saucepan. Add the rice and cook over high heat while continuing to add boiling water (some also use broth) in varying quantities depending on the variety of rice chosen.
6. When the rice is ready, let it rest. Then turn the pot over onto a serving tray, just like you did with the maqloubeh.
7. Decorate to taste with cherry tomatoes and parsley, if you want to accompany with the tahini sauce and finally serve to your guests. You will see how happy they will be!