Origins of ‘Mohammar’

Back in the old days, the fishing season took a break in winter, and accordingly, people had less catches, and thus had to store the catch they made during warmers days to be used in winter. As people did not have fridges or electricity in those days, they used to salt the fish and spread it in the sun to dry, using this ancient way of preserving food. The process was mainly done using khobbat (kingfish/king mackerel).

Later, when cooking the fish and for the sake of getting rid of the excess salt, people used to cook dates with the rice they ate with it so that its sweetness could neutralize the salinity of the fish. This dish is locally known as ‘Mohammar’ taking its name from its red color. This method of cooking prevailed in the pre-oil era, but later, people opted to adding date syrup to the rice. They sometimes added sugar and called the dish ‘Mohammar Shakar’ (Sugary Mohammar), after Kuwait struck oil.

Nowadays and on wishing to revive an old culinary tradition, people tend to caramelize the sugar before adding it to the rice eaten with khobbat. Mohammar is often eaten with fish gravy or with grilled fish. People rarely eat it on the second day of Eid Al-Adha with grilled meat. This is a brief history about cooking and eating Mohammar. I wonder what changes the future might bring to this loveable traditional Kuwaiti dish!

– Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Anbaa

By Dr Saleh Al-Ojairi

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