Most of the earth’s surface is covered by the oceans and the seas. A fisherman’s job is to pick out the best out of that water, and a chef’s job is to transform the catch into a culinary artwork.
ICCA is the academy that brings tradition to international students by also exposing them to the external multicultural life of Dubai alongside the regular classes. Our last visit from the school to the Deira fish market with the students of the Professional Batch was a fantastic opportunity where the budding chefs were allowed to directly interact with the vendors.
Students could explore the fish market offering a large selection of products from dried fish, fresh seafood and live local catches by smell, feel and touch of the fish and other seafood. These are the traditional lifeblood of the UAE, a valuable source of protein for the community. In fact, it is an integral part of the course to know better what variety of goods are available daily and during different seasons understanding the self-sustainability of the Arabian Gulf waters and Oman Gulf. An important source of food for UAE community this can be best done through the knowledge of those sea treasures, such as barracudas, red snappers, crabs, prawns and many more.
The Middle Eastern tradition is showcased by wooden dhow boats berthed beside the market, sided by the fish traps (Hadra). The fish market has also adapted to modern day changes by introducing plastic aprons, rubber gloves, and heavy duty boots for safety issues, protecting the new generations of fish vendors and customers that are willing to buy fresh catch. Amidst all these modern day adaptations are the old rusty scales, still used for weighing the fish. We could also see them facilitating a bargain option on the prices in their traditional ways.
The best part of the day was meeting Mr. Khaled Selaiteen, Food Inspector of the market, dressed in his impeccable white classic Kandura and measuring temperatures with a sophisticated infrared thermometer. Proudly, he explained to the Chef Instructor and the students about the division of the fish market and simultaneously highlighting names of local fishes, alive and still flapping their fins.
To our great surprise, Mr. Khaled Selaiteen was kind enough to offer us two large Sherry fish, which we later used to train the students in specific cooking methods. This was a wonderful gesture of traditional Emirati hospitality.
Everyone was happy by the end of the visit that this particular exposure to the local culture by meeting local people and multiethnic fishermen who shared their professional knowledge, could help bring some very useful information to the ICCA students.