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Mojama: The ham of the sea.

 

Spanish cuisine has a plethora of dishes that consistently delight food lovers with their flavours. One such food that is intense and exquisite in flavor and texture is mojama. Considered as a Spanish delicacy, Mojama is the meat from the rear of the tuna fish filleted into long strips.  The fillets are then washed with water and left for one or two days in coarse sea salt. Then, the fillets are washed again and left to dry in a well-aired place between 10 and 15 days. When the fillets have shrunken and darkened to a reddish-brown color, mojama is fit to eat. This drying and curing process is similar to that of ‘iberico ham’, therefore earning mojama the enduring nickname “Ham of the Sea”.

 

The origin of mojama runs deep in the heart of Spanish culture. For centuries, fishermen in warm climates have turned to drying or curing fish to preserve their catch. These fishermen would pack their fish in sea salt, and then hang them in the sun to dry. Although modern refrigeration would make this practice obsolete; mojama is a traditional product of the areas that still employ the Almadraba fishing method. This technique consists of creating a maze of cloth nets through which migrating tuna passed and were captured.  Mojama is chiefly produced in southern Spain and along the very windy coastline known as the Costa de la Luz and normally along the coasts of southeast Spain and Andalusia.  Additionally, provinces such as Huelva and Cadiz in the Atlantic, as well as Valencia, Murcia, and Almeria in the Mediterranean are also known to produce great quantities of mojama.

Mojama is characterized by its own unique taste, color, aroma and texture. It differs completely from those of fresh tuna. It has a stronger aroma, taste, a darker color, and more consistent texture due to the drying and curing process. During this process, the flavor deepens and the light fishiness transforms into something more shadowy, laying low behind salty umami flavor that never overpowers the tuna. Although mojama is a salted product; it is not aggressively salty. With a lingering saltiness, a firm texture, and hints of umami; even just a small sprinkling of tiny pieces of mojama packs quite the punch.

The key to making mojama the star of the dish is keeping the dish simple and pairing it with subtler flavors. We love to slice it very thinly (wafer thin if possible). some delicious olive oil drizzled over and some crunch bread sticks in the center of the plate.

Mojama can also be grated over other dishes, such as pasta, salads, or scrambled eggs. Or shaved over toast with fresh tomato slices and olive oil for lunch or slice it thinly and serve it low-key with olives and Marcona almonds. Whether it is used as a garnish or the main dish itself, mojama is one of those ingredients that defines the heart of Spanish cuisine.

Que aproveche!


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