CAIRO: Fesikh, a traditional salted fish, is a staple food during the Sham el-Nessim holiday, but every year despite warnings from the health department it manages to send some people to the hospital after food poisoning.
Sham el-Nessim, which translates to “Smelling the breeze,” falls every year on the Monday after Coptic Easter, and marks the beginning of the spring and has been celebrated since ancient times in Egypt.
A proper Sham el-Nessim meal includes fesikh, ringa (a smoked herring,) and eggs.
If prepared improperly, fesikh, like other fermented foods, may contain botulism, which can cause paralysis or be fatal.
Here are some tips to keep healthy if you choose to partake in this smelly dish:
- Start your day with water
In order to be prepared for a day full of an unusual amount of salty food, gastrointestinal tract expert Dr. Mohamed el-Menessy told Youm7 he advised people to drink abundant amount of water, suggesting at least five liters divided through the day.
- Never eat salty fish for breakfast
Many Egyptians like to start their day with eating the salty dish for breakfast, something Dr. El-Menessy cautioned against, adding that it could raise one’s blood pressure.
Instead, he advised to eat a light, healthy breakfast including yogurt, fruits, no more than two eggs per person and to avoid eating cooked beans.
- Be careful when buying fesikh
The government has warned against buying fesikh from street vendors and to instead search for reliable markets.
Many tons of spoiled fermented fish was seized by the authorities Sunday, hours before the start of spring celebrations.
- Onion, vegetables are your weapons
Fesikh is usually paired with raw onion and vegetables like lettuce, which can also act to kill any bacteria that may be present.
Fesikh is traditionally prepared by letting the raw fish dry in the sun, after which it is cured in salt.
Before eating, the fish should be immersed in vinegar and lemon.
Ringa is considered a safer and healthier option, since it is sold in air-vacuumed packages. However, digestive specialist Dr. Neveen Reda told Youm7 she advised to immerse the fish in tahini and lemon to reduce its salinity.
- After the meal, fruits, hot herbs
Preferably after ingesting the salty meal, Reda advised to drink “cleansing” beverages to wash the gut of bacteria, suggesting warm lemon juice without sugar or honey, as well as hot ginger and cloves.
Fruits are also advised after the meal, especially red and green apples, which contain antioxidants in the peel.
Also, lupini beans without salt are suggested to be ingested following the meal in order to reduce swollen stomachs.
Some experts also advise to chew mint and cloves to get rid of the long-lasting smell of the fesikh.
Additional reporting by Marwa Elias