Samak Mishwi min al-Iskandriyya
Difficulty: Easy but takes non-working time
The Alexandrian fish market supplied Cairo with pickled fish in the Middle Ages, and salted tuna was exported to the faraway then capital of Tunisia, Qairouan. Alexander the Great had founded the city, and for millennia the Greek influence has been present. Although we know that the medieval Egyptians delighted in fish cookery, we can only surmise that this was one of the more typical methods by which the fish were cooked. Undoubtedly the Greek community had an influence on seafood cookery, and even today some of the restaurants specializing in seafood that dot the coast from Alexandria east to Abu Qir are Greek owned.
This recipe instructs you how to grill the fish as it is done at the famous Qaddura restaurant in Alexandria. I hadn't realized it, but most food writers tell us that samak mishwi is grilled fish when actually, in Egypt, it is "griddled" not grilled. A large cart, whose surface is a steel griddle, is fired by propane gas or wood, and the fish griddled on top.
If gray or red mullet are not available, use small whole striped bass, red snapper, redfish, or porgies.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 2:20 hours
|2 pounds gray mullet or red mullet (about 2 gray and 6 red), scaled, gutted, and cleaned, head and tails left on, or 1 pound gray or red mullet, scaled, gutted, and cleaned, and 1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined if necessary|
1. Marinate the fish, covered, in a ceramic or glass baking pan with the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, cumin, salt, and pepper for 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning several times.
2. Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on low for 20 minutes with a large oiled cast-iron griddle set upon the grilling grate. Score the fish in 3 places on both sides. Place the fish (and shrimp, if using) on the griddle until the fish is firm and the shrimp completely, cooked turning only once, about 16 to 20 minutes for the fish and 8 to 10 minutes for the shrimp.
Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.