Spicy fish with tahini sauce - Samkeh harra

Tripoli is situated North West of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea. It's a city with history abounding with life, souks and culture. Tripoli has long been known for its sweets, olive-based soaps and fish markets of course. Samkeh harra, is a famous Lebanese fish dish with spicy flavors originating from the coastal city of Tripoli. Basically it is baked whole fish (sometimes lightly fried first), stuffed with a mixture of chilies, cilantro and garlic. The final and very important touch is to top it with a good dose of Tahini sauce.
The tahini sauce in question melts creamily into the fish, leaving a delicious tender dish. This time, I chose fish fillets which is more convenient. 
This is best served at room temperature, which accentuates the tahini flavor. 

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 white fish fillets (abt 1/3 lb or 180g) or 1 whole red snapper fish
2 tbsp chopped coriander
10 garlic cloves
1 cup of toasted almonds & pine nuts
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp of ground cardamom
1 cup tahini
3/4 cup of lemon juice 
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
chopped parsley for garnish

Rub the fish fillets with a cut lemon. Pat dry. Heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
In a food processor, combine the cloves of garlic, salt, chili flakes, and chopped coriander to make a paste. Divide this mixture in half, reserving one for the sauce later.

Add the cardamon, cumin, pepper, dried coriander to one half and mix it all together. Add 1/4 cup of the lemon juice and olive oil and mix. Rub this paste onto the fillets. Place them in a baking dish and cover them with foil and bake for about 45 mn until the fish is cooked when flaked with a fork.

Take the garlic paste (the half that you have used already). Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a skillet and add the paste, stirring. Do not let the garlic burn, so cook for only 3 minutes. Let cool.

Heat the tahini in a saucepan, adding 1/2 cup of the lemon juice and a bit of water to obtain a smooth sauce. Add the garlic and coriander paste. When the sauce thickens and boils, remove from the heat.
Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice or salt to your liking.

Place the fillets on a serving platter. Pour the sauce over. Garnish with chopped parsley, and toasted almonds & pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Poisson épicé ou samkeh harra 

Ingrediénts (4 personnes):
4 filets de poisson à chair blanche (180g le filet) ou 1 bar de 2 1/2 kg
2 càs de coriandre hachée
10 gousses d'ail
1 tasse d'amandes & pignons de pin grillés
1/2 càc de piment
1 càs de cumin
1 càc coriandre sèche
1 càc cardamonne moulue
1 tasse de tahini
3/4 tasse de jus de citron
1/2 tasse d'eau
sel et poivre
1/2 tasse d'huile d'olive
persil haché pour la garniture

Frottez les filets de poisson avec un citron coupé. Séchez-les avec du papier absorbant. Préchauffez le four à 200ºC. Au robot, mélangez les gousses d'ail, le sel, le piment et la coriandre hachée pour obtenir une pâte. Divisez ce mélange en 2, en réservant l'un pour la sauce plus tard.  

Ajoutez la cardamome, le cumin, le poivre, la coriandre sèche dans une moitié et mélangez le tout. Ajoutez 1/4 de tasse de jus de citron et l'huile d'olive et mélangez. Frottez les filets avec ce mélange. Placez-les dans un plat allant au four et recouvrez-les de papier aluminium. Faites les cuire au four pendant environ 45 mn jusqu'à ce que le poisson soit cuit.  

Faites chauffer 1/4 de tasse d'huile d'olive dans une poêle et ajoutez l'autre moitié du mélange ail-coriandre. Évitez de brûler l'ail, faites-le revenir seulement 3 minutes. Laissez refroidir.  

Faites chauffer le tahini dans une casserole, ajouter 1/2 tasse de jus de citron et un peu d'eau pour obtenir une sauce onctueuse. Ajoutez le mélange d'ail et de coriandre. Lorsque la sauce s'épaississe et bouillonne, retirez du feu. Goûtez la sauce et ajoutez plus de jus de citron ou du sel à votre convenance.  

Déposez les filets sur un plat de service. Versez la sauce. Garnissez de persil haché, d' amandes et de pignons de pin grillées. Servez tiède ou à température ambiante. 


  1. wow...the sauce sounds fantastic! And the presentation is simply elegant.

  2. This looks fantastic! and it has one of my favortie ingredients in it: Tahini. I've never tried to combine it with fish. Great idea! Bet it gives a wonderful flavor. I will definitely try this. Can I make it with any kind of fish? And is it sill ok if I grill the fish instead of baking? I was planning to make grilled salmon today.

  3. Hi zerrin, for type of fish, you want a white-fleshed sea fish. In a pinch cod filets would be a lot better than oily fish like tuna or salmon. You'll get the best results with red snapper, if you can find it.

  4. Il doit etre très savoreux le poisson cuisiné ainsi!

  5. This is such a lovely looking dish. The sauce you have fashioned sounds wonderful. I can only imagine how good this must be to taste. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. It is appreciated. Blessings...Mary

  6. interesting recipe. Cardamon, coriander and cumin....great combination of spices!

    Added your link to my peteformation blogroll. Cheers!

  7. This looks devine! Simply elegant. Great job Chicho!

  8. Wonderful photo - looks too good to eat

  9. Love Middle Eastern food very much. This fish is very delicious looking. Love the tahini sauce.

  10. That is one recipe that I really love!!!! Oh and I have to have Arak with it, believe it or not :)
    And you post wonderful photos like always ;)

  11. This looks soo good! If I had all the ingredients, I would make it for dinner.

  12. It's great to feed a big group of people!!

  13. Tahini and fish! That sounds fabulous, especially because I love the creamy, nutty, intense flavor of tahini on most anything.

  14. I love that dish! have to make it again!

  15. I love how you are using tahini so much - I have a tub in my fridge that takes me ages to get through. We love it, I just don't have that many uses for it. This sounds amazing too!

  16. I just love all your traditional recipes! The photos are wonderful too.

  17. In the post you have written, what you have to tell and explain is very unique, along with your beautiful post, your recipe is very tasty, it tastes great and the way to make it is excellent.
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