But the agency clerks told him they were sending him to Kiryat Gat.
“Is there a sea there?” he asked.
“Surrrrrrrrrrre, there’s a sea there!” they answered.
But the sea laps at the beaches in nearby Ashkelon.
So Simo managed to get a truck ride regularly to Ashkelon. While the other passengers went swimming, Simo went fishing.
But to support his wife and five children, he needed to work in the Ligat textile factory in Kiryat Gat.
Finally, Simo reached a point where he could quit the factory and dedicate himself to the sea and its fish. Along these lines, he opened a store called Hayam V’Ani 1 – The Sea and Me 1 – which sold fishing and camping equipment. Near the city shuk, he then opened Hayam V’Ani 2 – The Sea and Me 2 – and has been selling fish (and dispensing fish preparation advice and tips) there ever since. He’s known as “Simo Hadayag – Simo the Fisherman” and sports a skipper’s cap.
But Simo not only sells fish. He and his wife, Zahava, specialize in fish dishes. It looks like he also opened a kosher fish restaurant there, but I couldn’t see what hechsher.
Simo says, “My joy is to see people leave here with a smile and return happily because of the friendly service and the love for fish and people.”
Fortunately for us, Simo produced a book of fish recipes called Hayam V’Ani 2 (which is where I got all this biographical information from), which includes jokes, stories, tips, recipes, and lots of descriptive photos.
I always liked fish okay, but after a fish-connoisseur gifted us Simo’s book, I started making all kinds of fish every day: Moroccan-style tuna, Moroccan-style perch, chreimeh, cooked-then-roasted carp, fish balls (with or without potatoes), broiled or grilled fish, fried fish, stuffed fish, baked salmon, fish and couscous, fish sauce, caviar, and even Moroccan-style gefilte fish!
Simo's recipes have made me a fish lover.
Simo’s book is in Hebrew, but because most of the words repeat themselves, once you know the vocabulary, you can follow the book just fine.
Here is the basic vocabulary:
(Sorry the Hebrew isn't in Hebrew letters, but stuff starts getting wonky when I mix the languages.)
agvaniya – tomato
batzal – onion
chofen kusbara ketzutza – a bunch (a handful pre-minced) of minced cilantro
gamba aduma – red bell pepper
kamon – cumin
kimel – caraway seed
pilpel adom matok – sweet red pepper
pipel charif – hot pepper
pilpel lavan – white pepper
resek agvaniyot – tomato sauce
shemen – oil
shinei shum ketzutzot – minced garlic cloves
ad sheh hamayim mitadim – until the water evaporates
l’hanmich et ha’aish – lower the fire
lifros – to slice
litagen – to fry
l’atof – to slather
michseh – lid
parus – sliced
reticha – boiling
And that’s most of it.
You don’t need to follow the recipes exactly and can substitute or add and eliminate according to your preferences, just making sure you adjust water amounts and so on.
Simo has no idea I’m a fan or even that I exist.
Hayam V’Ani 2 is located in Hashuk Hechadash 118, Kiryat Gat.
Simo can be reached at or at (08) 688-9568 for deliveries and orders (and I guess if you also want to know where to buy his recipe book and which kosher certification he uses).
Recipe: Tuna Steaks and Potatoes in Tomato-Pepper Sauce
Throwing a bunch of Simo’s tips and recipes together gave me this delicious and attractive one-pot meal of tuna steaks and potatoes. (Because I tend to cook by sight, smell, and mood – as opposed to measurements – this isn’t an exact recipe, so be forewarned.)
Most Israeli fish sellers recommend marinating tuna steaks in a bowl of water with lemon slices, maybe with baking soda also, for at least twenty minutes.
The Moroccan way to prepare any fish for cooking is to marinate the fish in salt and vinegar (or lemon juice) for hours and then to set the fish over a strainer to drain for hours (for convenience, this is often done over night).
But you can eliminate all prep; it will still turn out fine.
In a wide shallow pot, spread just enough oil to cover the bottom.
Then make pretty circles with lots of sliced tomatoes and red bell peppers and maybe a can of crushed tomatoes. (For extra prettiness, you can also use orange, yellow, or green bell peppers.)
You can also add a hot pepper or two.
Then place sliced potatoes on the tomatoes and peppers, as many potatoes as you need.
Then scatter 4 or 5 garlic cloves over it all (whole or sliced or however you like).
Then sprinkle over everything lots of paprika, salt, some cumin, and a little bit of white or black pepper.
Note: It’s very important to know that tuna must be cooked as minimally as possible to create a moist texture. Tuna dries out super fast during cooking. Also, I personally like my vegetables mushy. So I add enough water, put on the lid, and cook everything for a really long time.
In the meantime, you can prepare the tuna-slathering sauce with oil, water, lemon juice, minced cilantro, minced garlic, paprika, cumin, and salt.
When the vegetables are cooked to your liking, you slather each tuna steak in the pretty red-with-specks-of-white-and-green sauce and place them on top of the potatoes.
Check the water level.
Watch it like a hawk, ready to flip the tuna steaks the moment they seem ready. Then watch it like a hawk some more and remove it from the flame the very moment the tuna seems cooked enough - its dark flesh should turn kind of white inside.
(Keep in mind whether the tuna will be later placed on an electric platter for Shabbat or will be eaten immediately, as far as cooking times go. You can cook it for a little longer if it won’t be heated later.)
And that’s it.
You can also do this without the potatoes and it freezes really well. Also, you can play around with it to your heart’s content. You can eliminate the cilantro and use parsley or dill instead – or none of them. You can use just tomatoes or just canned crushed tomatoes. You can omit the cumin or add onions.
Here are some of the different fish Simo uses in his recipe book:
(I am pretty sure of the translations, but not 100%. Apologies for any errors.)
amnon/musht – tilapia
bakala – hake
barbonia – red mullet
bass – sea bass
betzei dagim – caviar
buri – gray mullet
dag moshe rabbeinu – plaice
denis – sea bream
forel/truta – trout
karpion – carp
kasif – silver carp
lavrak – striped bass
lokus – white grouper
musar – red drum
musar yam – corvina
nesichat hanilus (or just nesicha) – Nile perch
sardinim – sardines
sargos – zargoza
tuna – tuna