August 2, 1990…
A day that will most likely live in every Kuwaiti mind for generations to come, on August 2nd, 1990, Saddam Hussein and the Iraq Army invaded Kuwait and by the end of the day Kuwait had been completely occupied by Iraqi forces. Claiming that he was freeing Kuwait from the grips of western imperialism, what he failed to explain was that his country was bankrupt from the Iraq – Iran War, and he was desperate for control of the Kuwaiti oil fields. Not only that, but he was furious over the refusal of Kuwait to forgive Iraq’s war debts of $65 billion dollars.
A series of failed sanctions and diplomatic talks would fail to provide the results that the American-led coalition, and in January, the coalition forces began bombing Iraq in preparation for a major ground operation. By the end of February, 1991, Iraq had been successfully driven out of Kuwait by coalition forces, in what became known as Operation Desert Storm. The documentary above tells the story of the occupation and subsequent desert storm operation that would free the Kuwaiti people from Iraq.
A Little History:
In the 4th century, present-day Kuwait was a center of commerce and trade. During this time Kuwait City came under rule from Sabah I bin Jaber. At one time Kuwait had one of the largest sea fleets and was a leader in the pearl trade. (The current al-Sabah ruling family are direct descendents of Sabah I bin Jaber).
Around 1900, the Kuwaiti Sheikh entered into a treaty with Britain which would provide protection for Kuwait from the Ottoman empire in exchange for British control over its foreign affairs. In 1937, a US-British owned Kuwait Oil Company would discover one of the largest oil reserves in the world and begin to transform the economy of Kuwait into a prosperous nation and the largest exporter of oil in the Persian Gulf.
On June 19, 1961, Kuwait gained its independence from British rule. After a dispute and subsequent military intervention by the British, Iraq and Kuwait settled a dispute over Iraq’s claim that Kuwait should be part of their rule. During this time, the first National Assembly was held in 1963. However, 3 years later, the National Assembly was suspended by the Emir (Head of the Ruling Government). During this time oil production and exportation was growing rapidly, and the economy of Kuwait was increasing vastly. A stock market crash and decrese in oil prices caused a recession briefly, however the crisis was averted because the Iraq-Iran War had caused those two countries to decrease their oil production. During the war, Iraq was supported heavily by the Kuwaiti government with supplies, troops and most of all, money.
Of course, you know from above what happened after that, with the invasion by Iraq, Operation Desert Storm and the rebuilding process. Kuwait is still to this day struggling to shift from its imperial views to a democratic nation, ruled by the people.
Today’s recipe is a fish stew. Seafood is very popular in Kuwait, and this dish shows off some of the wonderful flavors in Kuwaiti cuisine. This recipe also uses the black limes known as loomi that we used in the Bahraini Machbous dish from before. We used Nile Perch as the fish fillet choice for this dish, but you are welcome to use whatever sustainable species are available in your location 😉
- 4 Medium White Fish Filets (about 600-800g)
- 5-6 cloves of garlic (chopped or crushed)
- 2 or 3 Black Limes (loomi)
- 1 Large Green Chilli
- 2 Onions
- 1 Bunch Dill
- 1 Bunch Coriander
- 3 Tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 2 1/2 Cups Hot Water
- 3-4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 Cups Basmati Rice
- 2 Teaspoons Ground Cardamom
- 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
- 2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons Tumeric
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
The first step is to chop up the vegetables. Chop the onions and put them in a separate bowl. In another bowl, chop the chili, dill, coriander, garlic and tomatoes. Puncture the black limes with a skewer and place them in the bowl with the vegetables.
At this time go ahead and start cooking the Basmati rice. Make sure and wash it with cold water first, then drain and cook according to instructions either in a rice cooker or on a stove. Usually, it is 1 1/2 times water to rice measurement.
Next, we need to mix up the spices. Measure them all out in a small bowl and then stir them together. Set aside 2 Teaspoons of the mix for the pot. The rest of the spice mix will be used for the fish fillets.
Now, Prepare your fish filets buy rubbing each side with the spice mix and then dusting with the flour. Try and coat them evenly on both sides and then set aside.
Heat up 2 Tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and then cook the onions. Once they turn clear, add in the coriander, dill, garlic, chilli, tomatoes, black limes (loomi) and 2 teaspoons of the spice mix. Fry that for about one minute and then transfer the mix to a large pot. Add the 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and simmer on medium heat.
While this is simmering, Fry the fish fillets for about 2 minutes on each side or until just fried. Then add those to the pot and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is done.
Plate out some rice and then cover with the sauce and fillet mixture and enjoy!.
Fires Of Kuwait:
A compelling documentary shot in 1992 shows Kuwait in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion. A last request by Saddam Hussein while being driven out of the country was to set fire to over 600 oil wells in a show of extreme spite and hatred for the Kuwaiti people and more importantly for their successful oil production. It was estimated that over 6 million barrels of oil were being burned each day the fires raged. At first, they thought it would take years to put out all of the fires, but a strong coalition of firefighting forces from all over the world helped to put it out in about 9 months….this is the true story.
Class of 1990:
A small class in an international elementary school in Kuwait was torn apart due to the invasion of Kuwait. 20 years later…they meet again and share the story of that day and their lives since.
For this recipe, we actually used a recipe written on the back of the black limes (loomi) that we bought from Herbies Spice Store in Sydney. You can also find the original recipe on their website here.