Ringa is to Middle Easterners what smoked salmon is to Westerners. Another thing to say from the get go: its flavor is an acquired one. Let’s just say that if you don’t like salt or the taste of smoked food, you probably won’t like this one. Luckily for me, I like both – so sustainably fished and properly prepared (read: without preservatives) ringa satisfies my middle-of-the-day salt cravings. Well, only about twice a year when I remember that it exists and I can buy it. When I do buy it, I like to make sure it’s wild-caught and sustainably fished, though these qualities are hard to come by and are often misrepresented in the supermarket or seafood market. I still do my part and ask questions.
So, what is ringa anyway?
Ringa is salted smoked herring, a saltwater fish widely available all over the world, including in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. It’s usually eaten for lunch during Sham el Nessim, an ancient Egyptian holiday that is celebrated on the day after Easter. But obviously, that’s not the only time to eat it! Generally, I’m not a fan of store-bought smoked meats and fish, because of the potentially added nitrites and other preservatives (no preservatives were added to the ringa that I bought though). However, from time to time, my taste buds crave the taste of smoked foods, so I cave into buying it sporadically. In the future though, I do plan on learning how to make smoked foods safely at home, since it clearly is possible. Just don’t wait for the post on that one; it might be a while.
How is ringa eaten?
It’s easier than it looks, really. All you gotta do is pull it open and remove the large bones (if any). Then cut off the head, since mercury – if present – is often concentrated in the head. Remove the skin, and slice the fish into two large filets, as shown below.
What recipes involve ringa?
In Egypt, ringa is mostly eaten by itself, with a drop or two of lime or lemon, accompanied by the compulsory hot pita bread and maybe salad on the side – that’s how I grew up eating it. But there are other ways to eat it too, such as making it into a spread by deboning it carefully, seasoning and blending it, and mixing in some chopped scallions, arugula, chives, extra virgin olive oil, and a generous amount of fresh lemon or lime. You could also serve it with cream cheese spread with fresh dill in a sandwich, or cut up on crackers with hard boiled eggs and finely chopped red onions. And these are just a handful of suggestions that I came up with on the spot. Mayo and cayenne pepper also sound like they could make a fine pairing with the herring. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
When I come across wild-caught smoked herring again while doing my grocery shopping, I’ll be sure to pick up another whole fish or two so I can try out the recipe suggestions I have above. So, stay tuned for a sequel sometime.