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Gaza’s specialty: Hot pepper and fish

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 18.02.2006:

One can hardly speak about a typical Gazan dish: 40% of the population are refugees coming from different villages and towns all over former Palestine. The Gazan kitchen has been shaped by many other kitchens, including the Egyptian kitchen (Gaza was controlled by Egypt between 1948 and 1967). For instance, in Gaza you often find full, a very nutritious kind of beans that is popular in Egypt. During the many curfews of the Intifada, when for prolonged periods people were not allowed to leave their houses and to buy food, they stored large quantities of full. In this way they could always feed their children.

Although there is not a uniform Gazan cuisine, Gazans prepare their food in a slightly different way than in the West Bank. Gazan food is known for its spiciness. Hot spices are added to give more flavour to the meals. An example is the “Gazan salad.” This salad is similar to the Arabic salad except that more pepper is added. As Gaza borders the sea, another specialty is fish. Fresh fish from Gaza is still popular among Palestinians.

One typical Gazan dish is kiddreh. On special occasions, for instance at a wedding or when the whole family visits the beach, people prepare it. They put rice, meat and spices in a big jar and fill it with water. They then put the jar in an oven and heat it until well-done. Afterwards the jar is broken into two pieces. This is done in a special way so that no pieces are left in the food. According to our Gazan informants this is not a typical Gazan dish; In the past also inhabitants of the West Bank used to prepare it. However, it is nowadays made in Gaza only.

Another special Gazan custom relates to funerals. When somebody dies, many blind people visit the mourning family and pray for the dead. The family rewards them afterwards with a delicious meal.

From: “Sahteen: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating”, published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, part of the Culture and Palestine series issued by the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows, Bethlehem, 1999. To order the book, send a mail to aei@p-ol.com

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