Fish Dishes (Fresh and Salted)

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I’ve been wanting to do a shrimp dish for awhile now.  I had the perfect opportunity when friends came over with a variety of dietary differences.  One didn’t eat red meat, another no wheat, and another no sugar.  I had to find a few dishes that everyone could eat and agree upon.  Shrimp was the choice for the main dish.  And an excellent choice it is!


Shrimp with Ginger 012

Tababajab min al-Ruiyan:

Fried Dish Made from Shrimp


Take Shrimp, shell them, boil them and remove them from the water. Gently drain them or be patient until they dry from their water then place them in a pot. Chip onions for them. Fry in olive oil and throw in dried spices. Sprinkl with vinegar and scatter rue over the top of it. Then serve. (Al-Warraq/Salloum, pp. 116-117


2 1/2 lbs Shrimp

1 Tbs. each dried coriander, fresh ground pepper, caraway

1 onion

2 Tbs. fresh ginger

Olive oil


All the spices in one spot with the chopped up onion.

Shrimp with Ginger 004

I did this slightly backwards. I boiled the shrimp first then peeled.

Shrimp with Ginger 002

A minor difference. From there I put the onions into a pan with lots and lots of olive oil.

Shrimp with Ginger 005

You could use butter or sesame oil if you prefer. Try the olive oil first then a different oil next time. The onions were turning slightly translucent when I added the ginger, then the spices.

Shrimp with Ginger 008

Once the spices were mixed with the onions, I added a bit more olive oil as the onions had absorbed a good percent. The shrimp were added.

Shrimp with Ginger 010

I cooked and stirred till the shrimp were well coated in the spices.

Shrimp with Ginger 012

This is one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve had in a long time.


February 26, 2015 | No comments

So we start with a very tasty dish in fish.  Most people go ewww…ick!  Don’t let that stop you.  Pick a GOOD piece of fish.  Talipia is sort of the last resort if you must.  Not a lot of flavor.  I went with a good piece of fresh wild salmon.  And it was amazing!  The dish almost didn’t make it out of the kitchen.

Samak al-Sikbaj

Fish made like Sikbaj




You will need a fresh fish, vinegar, honey, atraf tib, black pepper, onion, saffron, sesame oil, and flour.  Wash the fish.  Cut up and fry in the sesame oil after having dredged in flour.  When it has cooked, removed it.  Mince the onions and fry in the sesame oil until they brown.  Pound the black pepper and add the atraf tib.  Dissolve the saffron in the vinegar and honey and add (to the onions).  When they are cooked put the fish into it.  (Kanz al-Fawa’id fi Tanwi al-Mawa’id/Salloum, pp. 123)


1/2 lb deboned fish

1/3 C vinegar

1/4 C honey

Pinch saffron

1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 chopped onion

Enough oil to fry

Enough flour to dredge the fish


I gathered everything up


and started the oil in the pan prior to anything else.  The oil needs to be sizzling before putting the dredged fish in it, otherwise the fish will stick to the pan.



Next I dredged the fish on both sides then waited till the oil was sizzling.


Once the oil started to sizzle I placed the fish into the pan, covering it, and fried for 5 minutes on both sides.  If you have a slightly smaller fish or less thick, use your best judgement on fry time.  Thinner pieces of fish probably shouldn’t fry more then 2-3 minutes on each side.

Once cooked I pulled the fish from the pan and put aside.


Looks gorgeous, doesn’t it.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet.  It gets even better.

The chopped onions and a little more sesame oil went back into the pan.


These browned up very quickly so don’t walk away at this stage.  I did have enough time to combine the vinegar honey and saffron into a small bowl.


I stirred everything together and added to the onion and pepper once the onions were nicely browned.



A slight sizzle got going and on top of that went the fish.  Just enough to coat on each side.

The fish was plated once more.  I poured the remaining onion/honey-vinegar sauce on top.

068This is amazingly good!  Quick, elegant and daaamn tasty!



November 26, 2014 | No comments

The name Salty Fish in Yogurt is a bit of a misnomer as the fish is dotted rather then covered, but that could just be a translation or an aesthetic point.  No matter the naming the taste is very very aesthetically pleasing to the palate and easy on the cook!   This is a 10 minute dish, including cooking and mix time while giving very full flavor for only a small bit of effort.

Samak Malih Bi-Laban

(Salty Fish in Yoghurt)


Take salted fish, wash it, cut it up medium and fry it as we have mentioned.  Then take it from the pan hot and put it in yoghurt and garlic.  You throw nigella and finely milled Chinese cinnamon on its surface, and it is eaten hot or cold.

(Medieval Arab Cookery, pg. 390)


Fish fillets (Talapia)                   1 Tbs sesame oil            1 cup yogurt                 6 cloves garlic

Salt to taste                                    1/8 tsb cinnamon

*The original recipe calls for salted fish.  My thought that this is fish stored in salt so as not to spoil, a common way to store meats during the middle ages; however with today’s advent of modern miracles i.e. the refrigerator getting truly salted fish is almost impossible.

My Redaction:

We start with the fish and ingredients that go with this simplistic but very tasty dish.  fish with spices

The fish of choice for the moment is Talapia.

A quick notation on fish for Middle Eastern cooking here: Fish are declared the best in the Baghdad Cookery courses as those that are river fish.  Three types of fish are mentioned specifically; Zajar, sturgeon; bunni or banana, carp; and the most admired variety, shabbut; however no recipes listed call for a specific type of fish, nor recipes from the Iraqui book known as ‘al-Baghadadi, or in the Syrian Kitab al-Wusla ila al-Habib.  (Rodinson, pg. 479-480). I have used the mild flavored fish tilapia as a substitute for fish found in today’s Middle Eastern rivers

When I make this dish, I mix the cup of yogurt with the well chopped garlic cloves first.   This bowl of garlicky yogurt is set to the side while I get the fish going.

yogurt with garlic

The next step is to take the sesame oil and pour it into the pan.  Heat the pan then lay the fillets into the oil.  (no picture here sorry was busy not splattering kitchen with the oil or burning the quickly cooking fish).  Salt each fillet side.  Don’t be worried about over doing the salt, don’t add teaspoons of salt but do add more then a few grains.  Remember this was originally made for salted fish…fish packed in salt to retard spoilage.

When the fish is thoroughly cooked on both sides place on a plate and dot (or smear) with a TBS or more of the garlic yogurt mixture.

fish with sesame and yogurt

Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and voila!  I know, I know…the cinnamon sounds really weird to the modern palate to be adding to yogurt with salt and fish instead of yogurt and sugar.  Try it this and you’ll be going “Oh wow!!!”.  Yes the dish really is that awesomely awesome not to mention handsome with the garlicky yogurt and a dash of cinnamon.

This is a really good fish dish, that doesn’t have a strong fish taste (for those who really can’t stand the strong fishy taste of…fish).  I also used tilapia, a rather mild flavored fish.   The bite of the vinegar melds well with the tahini and both combine very nicely with the fish and spices.   A warming bit of fishy goodness!

Samak Maqlu bil-Khal wal-Tahina

(Fried Fish with Vinegar and Tahini)


Take salted or fresh fish, wash it well and dry it, then cut it up medium and fry in sesame oil  Throw a little dry coriander on it.  Then take as much vinegar and tahineh as needed and dissolve it until mixed; you moisten it with vinegar little by little until it has the desired consistency.  Season it, and if you wish, put in a little ground mustard and nuts or nuts with out mustard.  Then take it from the pan hot, and first put sesame oil in the pan, and coriander and milled Chinese cinnamon, and it is eaten.


5 Tilapia fillets              3 Tbs sesame oil           1 ½ tsp coriander

½ cup tahini                  ¼ cup vinegar               3 Tbs pine nuts and pistachios

Salt to taste

My Redaction:

I laid out all the ingredients needed (except the coriander).  This is for 5 fillets though the recipe can be expanded or cut as needed depending on the size of fillets being cooked.

Fish with spices

In the far right corner are the nuts, roughly 3 Tbs each un-chopped and unsalted.  Any type of nut can be used from walnuts to hazelnuts, in multiple combination or singular i.e. just pine nuts.  I just happened to like the idea of pistachio and the rich nuttiness of pine nuts.

Before adding the oil to the pan I combined the tahini and vinegar together.

tahini and vinegar

The vinegar curdles the tahini a little bit, though the sesame seed paste absorbs the vinegar very quickly and makes a thick paste after the original curdling.  You can add more vinegar . if you prefer a sharp bite however do not add so much that the flavor of the tahini or fish is over powered.  Do not worry if the mixture still looks like peanut butter in thickness after combining.

Next, I heated up a pan with 1 ½ tsp sesame oil.  I used lightly toasted sesame oil instead of dark though either could be used.  Once the sesame oil was heated up I placed the tilapia into the oil then sprinkled coriander on top and allowed to brown on one side.

fish with corriander

You may be asking why this is bubbling instead of frying and I can answer that question.  The fillets were still a little frozen and the water is now frying out of the fish.  This sort of worked out very well.  With the water and the oil cooking very hot, I placed a lid over the fish to hep with the cooking time, which actually cooked the fish a little faster.

Once the bottom was browned I flipped the fillets over to brown on the other side, sprinkling with coriander.  With the top now on the bottom browning I dotted the browned side of the fillets with the tahini and vinegar mixture, covering the side as thoroughly as possible with the generous dolloped teaspoon.  By this time the other side should be browned and I flipped the fillets over again to warm up the tahini.  This was a quick 1-2 minute browning before I removed the fish from the pan.  Sorry no pictures of the tahini dotting as I was moving very fast to make sure nothing burnt.

Finally I added the last of the sesame oil to the frying pan and mixed the nuts with the oil till the nuts were sizzling.  Roughly 2-3 minutes.  I sprinkled the tilapia with salt then removed the nuts from the oil sprinkling those on top of the fillets.

cooked fish with nuts

Now the fillets do crumble on removing from the pan (or at least mine do).  So don’t worry about the non symmetrical fillets.  The fish will still taste excellent.  Sprinkle with just a touch of coarsely ground salt or regular salt and enjoy this with sesame roasted carrots or garlic fried spinach!

Fish in the Style of Jimli

(Fish w/Prunes)

The original recipe’s translation is as follows from A Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Cookbooks, pp. A-52/An anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the Thirteenth Century


Take a fish, such as sarda (pilchard) or tardanis (red mullet) or some good fish like them; scale, slice and plunge into boiling water.  Take out immediately and wash with cold water.  Arrange in the tajine and throw in vinegar and a little murri naqui, pepper, saffron, cinnamon, spikenard, galingale and a little mastic, citron leaves and pulped prunes soaked in vinegar; scatter over it (fish) chopped almonds and garlic cloves wrapped in sprigs of thyme and plenty of oil; put in a moderate oven and leave until the sauce is dry and the top browns, then leave a while and take out.  And you might make this dish in a pot instead of a tajine in the oven.

Ingredients that will be needed:

1 side of salmon (or 4 pieces of Talapia)           1/3 cup vinegar

½ tsp cracked pepper corns

¼ C. soy sauce             ¼ C. Sesame oil (black sesame oil was used)

¼ tsp saffron                ¼ tsp cinnamon            1 tsp galingale

1/3 C. pine nuts            ½ C. chopped almonds      1 handful chopped garlic cloves

1 C. chopped prunes soaked in apple cider vinegar

Sprigs of thyme (optional)


Take fish (in this case Salmon) cut into hand sized pieces and dip into boiling water for 15-30 seconds or until the skin turns pink.  If the fish falls apart as it is being lifted from the water, then it has been over cooked.  There is no explanation as to why fish is to be boiled first; however it could be do to cleaning of impurities if fresh or removing of salt if the fish were salted instead of fresh.  Place into tajine or pot and then sprinkle the listed ingredients over.  Cook until the soy sauce and oil are reduced.

I first decided to try this dish with a firm fleshed fish i.e. Salmon.  Talapia would work just as well.  The original fillet was roughly 2 lbs and about 18” long.  I then cut the fish into 3 sections, roughly the size of my palm so that I could dip the pieces into a pot of boiling water easily as well as to control portion sizes.  Sorry no pictures of the fish.

jimli spice with garlic prunes nuts

These are the total spices, garlic, prunes and vinegar used.

The spices were sprinkles on top of the fish while the soy sauce and oil were splashed on top of the fish and underneath (to prevent burning and sticking to the clay pot.

Black sesame oil was used though the light sesame oil could have been substituted for a lighter less strong flavor with out damaging the over all taste.  My preference is to use sesame oil (either light or dark) for Middle Eastern cooking as I believe it is as authentic as olive oil with a more complex nutty taste.

Sesame Oil – “From Sesamum Indicum has competed with olive oil in India and the Mediterranean basin since ancient times.  It ha an excellent flavour, rather like roasted hazelnuts.” (Toussaint-Samat, pg. 220).

The pine nuts (unchopped) with the chopped almonds and garlic were sprinkled on top.  The recipe did not say to chop the garlic cloves.  I did this as this ingredient was included specifically with “chopped almonds”.  I believe the translation to mean both of these items to be chopped not just the almonds.

uncooked Jimli with spices

The problem with the ingredients list is that the fish really should have been the entire side of salmon and not just 1/3.   However since I really love the tasted of the roasted prunes and nuts in this sauce I cooked the extra.  O h my did I have extra!  This was a case of my eyes were to big for my cooking!   What I should have done was decrease the ingredients by about 1/3 to 1/2 for a better mix of fish to sauce.

Over all the blending of the flavors is savory with a slight sweetness from the prunes which brings the entire dish together, a very nice seasoning for fish.