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There are fabulous fish markets all over the Arabian or Persian gulf with some of the freshest fish I have seen. However, what makes them more fun than anywhere else, at least for me, is that there is a separate section where you can have your fish scaled, gutted,  filleted and cut the way you want.

Here’s a little clip of the fish cleaners which I shot in the fish market in Ajman, a small emirate not far from Dubai. The big fish the guy is cleaning will eventually be grilled whole over charcoal and served over a huge platter of rice, either white rice or biryani.


What’s more amusing is all that is discarded such as fish guts, heads (unless they are eaten), shellfish peel, etc. is used in cosmetics. You may not smell the fish (or meat for that matter) in your expensive crème de la mer or Estée Lauder cosmetics but it is very possible that some of this fish debris has gone into making them, including these lovely heads below!



desert truffles-5 copy

It’s this time of the year again when everyone is getting excited because desert truffles are back in season. Well, at least in Syria and Lebanon whereas they are just over in the Arabian Gulf — I missed them by a week or so. Not that I was so sad to miss them. I can’t say I am a great fan of these prized nuggets of the desert. They are more about texture than either aroma or flavour, and the annoying thing is that however well you clean them, there will always be a few grains of sand left to spoil the bite.

But I did have them once, at the house of a friend in Aleppo, when they were not only totally delicious — stewed with meat and served with the most divine rice flavoured with cardamom — but also without any grit. She had used truffles that are much bigger than those in the pictures here which I snapped last week in Damascus, and the girls who helped her in the kitchen spent a lot longer cleaning them. There wasn’t a single grain of sand.

desert truffles-cleaned & not cleaned copy

You can, if you want, buy them already cleaned but they never clean them well enough. They don’t want to lose any of the weight as they are very expensive, although nowhere near as expensive as either the black or white ones. In any case, I will not be buying them, either cleaned or still covered with earth. But if you are, ask for the darker truffles that are imported from Algeria. My Damascus grocer assures me they are far superior to the local ones. I guess they must be. They are twice as expensive.