Both my husband and I have fond memories of cooking and eating fish. In his case a river fish called Gutan was typically split and mounted on stilts over a fire until its flesh was roasted and a smoky crust formed on the flesh, which I’m told was often the best part. The closest we’ve gotten to this is visiting Beit al Baghdadi in the Deira neighborhood of Dubai.
When I was a child my family had part ownership in a farm on a spring-fed river called the Black where my father would fly fish for rainbow trout. I have vivid memories of Dad sitting with his pocket knife outside the kitchen door cleaning the day’s catch in a bucket, then handing it inside to my mother who dredged it in flour, egg wash and cornmeal and tossed it directly into a cast iron skillet.
Recently we went to the Deira fish market in Dubai, which is a thing to behold. The fresh catch of the day, whether hamoor, blue crab, squid, prawns, clams, sea bream, etc., sits nestled in ice on dozens of stainless steel stands. Once you’ve chosen your fishmonger and made your purchase it is taken to a station where one pays separately to have the fish cleaned by the scores of men working at several long enameled tables lined up in a row behind the counter. Though it’s impossible to tell who’s good at it and who’s not, the two or three men at the front of each counter call after each customer to come have his or her fish cleaned at their particular table. After your catch has been cleaned, you can either take it home and cook it yourself, or take it to a third stand to be cooked by local chefs in one of several preparations available. While you wait, if you’re lucky, you may get to sit on one of the five stools that make for an ongoing, slow motion game of musical chairs. Alternately you can head to the shop down the hall for coffee, tea or a bottle of water.
Having spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, we mostly know our way around a salmon. My favorite preparation of this particular healthy fish is to simply grill it and serve with Salsa Amba, which is basically tomatoes mixed with mango pickles. I’ve never tried making mango pickles having found a jarred type I like immensely called Ship brand. To make the salsa, mix equal parts chopped mango pickles and chopped fresh tomatoes in a bowl and set aside so the flavors can marry while you make the rest of the meal.
To prepare the salmon we simply marinade it in salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice and a little olive oil for about 15 minutes, then either roast it in a 350 degree oven or grill it until almost cooked through. We serve it with a simple salad, the Amba Salsa and some basmati rice for a light, flavorful meal.