Fesikh

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Fesikh is a traditional Egyptian preserve and fish dish consisting of fermented, salted and dried gray mullet, a saltwater fish that lives in both the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The traditional process of preparing fesikh is to dry the fish in the sun before preserving it in salt. The process of is quite elaborate, with the production technique passed from father to son in certain families. The occupation has a special name in Egypt: fasakhani.

Fesikh is traditionally eaten during Sham el Nessim, which is a spring celebration dating back to ancient times. On this occasion, fesikh had a special meaning, and it was believed that offering fish to the ancient gods would ensure a good harvest. Salted fish especially symbolized fertility and welfare.

Fish were abundant when the waters receded from the Nile flood, leaving them trapped in natural pools, and easily caught. The ancient Egyptians first celebrated this feast around 2700 BC. The spring festival coincided with the vernal equinox, and the ancients imagined that that day represented the beginning of creation, but when Christianity entered Egypt, this day was linked with Coptic Easter. United under a set menu of highly aromatic food, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor, all eat Fesikh (along with scallions, lettuce, beans and colored boiled eggs) as a national meal celebrating one of the oldest festivals in the world.  

Exact annual production numbers are unknown, but production tends to increase in the period before Sham el Nessim. Fesikh is mainly produced in the area of Menoufia, in northeastern Egypt. Though it is a food tradition dating back thousands of years, today many have concerns about consuming fesikh. If prepared or stored improperly, it can cause food poisoning (generally attributed to the Clostridium botulinum bacteria).

However, proper handling and storage techniques will reduce this risk.

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Territory

StateEgypt

Other info

Categories

Fish, sea food and fish products

Nominated by:Aurelia Weintz - Slow Food Cairo