I don’t know if mehyawa (or mahyawa), a fermented fish sauce that has its origins in Iran and is used widely as a spread in the Arabian Gulf, will ever become a global ingredient but it deserves to be. Eaten on its own with bread (usually regag or tannur) or with other ingredients like the fried egg in the picture above, it could be considered an ‘umami bomb’. I can’t remember where I first tasted it but I am pretty sure it was at my wonderful friend, Maryam Abdallah. Maryam is a wonderful cook and the first ever Qatari TV chef. She is married to a Bahraini and gets her mehyawa from Bahrain. According to her and other friends, Bahrain is the place for mehyawa but I got mine from my wonderful friend, Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi, who has been (still is) my saviour whenever I needed to learn about Emirati cuisine. Also when I wrote my piece on camel hump for Lucky Peach when she gave me a whole baby camel! Anyhow, I was having an exchange with her sister Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi about mehyawa on Instagram where I rued the fact that I didn’t bring back any with me from Qatar (Maryam had offered to give me some but I worried about having a bottle of it in my luggage) and Hoor said she would arrange to send me some. Not long after Bodour’s driver was at my door with two huge jars of excellent home-made mehyawa.
But I had to wait until I could get together with my lovely Bahraini friend, Shermeen al Shirawi, to try it properly. Mimi (her nickname) said she would show me how to eat it, basically spread on bread and eaten plain which was a little too strong for me or topped with fried eggs. The Aleppo pepper was my touch. It was good although to be honest it was a little too subtle to come through the mehyawa. A spicy chilli pepper would have worked better. Next time. I experimented with different flat breads. The top picture is a corn tortilla and the one below is roti. With Shermeen, we used a commercial tannur which was fine but not great. I didn’t snap a picture of the pita bread because it was too large for the lone egg and anyway, the egg had broken but that was probably the best bread. However, if I could get regag in London, it is the one I would go for. I am hoping to make my own regag before I move out. If I do, I will post the results here. I will also post the recipe for making mehyawa as soon as Mimi gets one for me!