Abu Dhabi: Mina Fish Market is the only place in Abu Dhabi where fish lovers can buy fresh fish, including live ones, and get it steamed, fried or grilled on charcoal before their very eyes.
The grill spots are a favourite place for both Emiratis and expatriate communities.
More than a dozen outlets are merely dedicated for barbecuing, where a fish lover can buy fresh fish from the market and get it barbecued in front of them.
Speaking to Gulf News, Salah Rifaei from Egypt, manager at Al Jeeza Pyramids Grilled Fish Servicing, said, “A full fish grilled with yeast of wheat is popular among Arabs particularly Egyptians with its popularity dating back 7,000 years to the Pharaonic era.”
He said many customers also order over the phone, adding that he gets up to 60 orders on Thursdays, about 150 on Fridays and around 80 on Saturdays. He said adding that during working days, footfall of consumers and orders drop to 40.
Dh15cost of grilling a kilogram of fish on charcoal
“For customers who order over the phone, we buy fish for them, grill it as per their choices and deliver to their homes.
“We grill all kinds of fish here and customers are locals, Arabs and expatriates from different countries mostly,” he said.
Grilling a kilogram of fish on charcoal costs Dh15 for while the cost of oven-cooking is Dh10 and deep frying Dh10.
“We charge similar prices for all kinds of fish, small and big, including shrimps and lobsters,” said Rifaei.
Just like home
Ahmad Al Hammadi, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi and a regular customer at the market, said, “I would say the cooking here is most similar to home-cooked or grilled fish, mostly Emiratis like the place because the way they grill and fry. Their preparation and spices mixture are excellent. That’s why we come here.”
“The grilling prices are reasonable with good services and it’s clean. In a month, I come here thrice — I have been coming here for more than 20 years. The market has been here for over 30 years or so,” said Al Hammadi as he sampled a variety of grilled fish including shrimps.
Another Emirati, Saeed Al Mahrazi from Abu Dhabi, who was waiting for his order, said: “I love the way they prepare and spices that they add to roast and fry. It suits our taste and the traditional way of cooking fish at home.”
Weekends are busy
The fishmongers are kept quite busy during the weekend, particularly on Fridays. Most of the restaurants are open from 8am to 10pm and they do not have sitting areas.
Dh10cost of oven-cooking and deep-frying a kilogram of fish
Popular fish are generally ordered from here. They include hammour, kingfish, tuna, sheri, black and white pomfret, biah and shrimps.
Ahmad Shalabi, 39-year-old head chef at Pearl of Sham, said: “You can imagine the popularity of the place among Arabs. In a tiny outlet, four chefs are busy grilling and frying.”
“During weekends we receive plenty of customers which reach up to 150 or 200 at times.”
Sometimes tourist buses also stop here and the narrow alley gets filled with customers, Shalabi said.
“During working days, we serve a customer in less than 20 minutes, but during weekends the wait time reaches up to to an hour,” he said.
Customers also can get rice, salads and Arabic bread separately at Dh5 a box.