Yid.Dish: South African Herring Salad


Mark Bittman’s recent call to eat more sustainable fish included the instruction to eat more herring, a fish that is near and dear to Ashkenazic cuisine. What would kiddush in synagogue be without plates of this tasty, flavorful fish? Well, maybe herring is a little too flavorful–while I love herring, I find that many younger Jews find it too strong or fishy tasting. For those whose taste buds were raised on bland farmer salmon or other milder fish, herring seems to only be on the menu if you eat it at a trendy Scandanavian restaurant.

But there is hope for the herring-skeptic. I first had this delicious herring salad in London, at the Shabbat table of a cousin from South Africa. In my family, while we eat it all year, it has become an important part of our Yom Kippur break-fast. The sweetness of the pineapple and the acid in the mayonnaise are a wonderful balance to the full-flavored herring. The matjes herring is wonderfully delicate, and is a good introduction to herring for those who are used to tart, briny fish pieces from a jar.

Check out the recipe after the jump!

South African Herring Salad
3 to 4 herrings, filleted, cleaned, soaked (I use matjes herring fillets)
1 medium to large onion, peeled and sliced finely
1 to 2 cans drained pineapple pieces (reserve the syrup)
Good thick mayonnaise

Using scissors, cut up the herring into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl with the sliced onion. Add the pineapple pieces (if you use pineapple rings, just slice them into pieces before adding to the salad). Blend about 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise with some of the reserved pineapple syrup, adding the latter slowly to the mayonnaise to avoid lumps. When the consistency is to your liking–rather like a thin cream or buttermilk–pour over the herring mixture and gently mix everything. Adjust the quantity of mayo/syrup as needed or to taste.

With thanks to Marianne Cobb for wonderful hospitality and this recipe!

Photo credit: The Blue Cafe

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2 Responses to “Yid.Dish: South African Herring Salad”

  1. Ketzirah Carly Says:

    I find it amusing that people don’t like fish because it tastes too “fishy.” It’s like not liking cheese because it tastes too cheesy!

  2. Victor Says:

    Me, I love herring, and every couple months get a weird craving where I just need to eat a bagel with herring.

    My herring salad (quite boring, but delicious):

    Pickled herring fillets, but into chunks
    Thinly sliced onion
    Green apple cut into tiny cubes
    Mayo and cream mixed into a thin cream consistency
    Pepper to taste

    Mix the whole thing together. Goes amazingly with a good bagel or some challah.

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