Tales of food poisoning from the traditional fish dish abound as well as warnings from the Egyptian Ministry of Health. Yet the locals still can't get enough of feseekh, the poisonous fish that can lead to irreversible consequences if not properly prepared.
Egypt's Sham el-Nessim festival is fast approaching so Shaheen for Salted Fish and Caviar, Cairo's fish specialty shop, has been busier than ever as customers scramble for that stinky and fermented dried mullet. It's that poisonous fish the Egyptian Ministry of Health has been warning about, the same putrid delicacy that killed 18 people in 1991, according to BBC. Shop owner Sabry Shaheen claimed the Ministry's warnings only increased their traffic and took pride that they've never received any complaints from both their customers and the Ministry.
Shaheen revealed that the proper fermentation of the mullet fish includes drying it under the sun before soaking it in salty water for 45 days. A few of Shaheen's customers, affected by Egypt's unsteady economy and who have followed cooking shows and online tips, have also tried their hand on making feseekh at home. The lack of salt or the water's contamination with an already dead fish that can lead to botulism poisoning or even death in worst cases.
It's the same as Japan's killer puffer fish that killed 10 between the years 2006 and 2015 when they ate the dish they prepared themselves. Licensed chefs have trained for three years and diners pay between 5,000 to 35,000 yen for the fugu dish, according to The Guardian. The price of feseekh has also risen astronomically over the years and sold at Shaheen's shop for 120 Egyptian pounds a kilo. People eat feseekh with brown Baladi bread and some oil, lemon and onion to soften the biting salty taste of the dish. They eat it on special occasions or on Fridays despite the fact that the poisonous fish can leave a lingering smell in the house or even cause an upset stomach afterward.