The fish that I am using in this recipe is called Halwayoh in the local Arabic (pronounced helll-why-oh). the fish has small, itsy-bitsy scales and is very easy to clean. It is a rather plump fish and has a creamy-white flesh. Whenever my husband would bring home a Halwayoh to cook it would always be made into a stew, but just this past year we have enjoyed cooking it fried and even cooked in the oven stuffed with a hashwa (herb stuffing) like the one I made in this recipe Grilled Hamra with Hashwa…(hell-why-not)…sorry I just couldn’t resist
I really don’t think that you can overcook Halwayoh. I have done so by mistake a couple of times when I have made it into stew and it did not turn out hard like or fall apart like some other kinds of fish.
I think the name Halwayoh is akin to the Arabic word for Heloo meaing “sweet” or “nice”…well, to me it does anyway… I think I asked my husband about it once a long time ago.
Correct me if I am wrong though about the word relation
Everyone always praises and values using the Hammour (grouper) but I much prefer this fish in stews, baking, and even in frying. It is very delicious no matter how you cook it. If you should find this in the fish souk (or local market) buy it without hesitation! It is rare to find and will be a little bit costly but it is well worth it!
Here is what you will need:
1 kg fish cut into 3-inch slices (I prefer to use a chunky fish such as hammour or halwayoh for this dish)
For the marinade:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Arabian Spice Mixture
1 inch cube of fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
For the stew:
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 cup of onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 large tomato, skinned, de-seeded, and chopped
1 to 2 green chilies
1 heaping teaspoon of Arabian Spice Mix
2 Maggi stock cubes
1 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 inch cube of dried tamarind, soaked in hot water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups of water
2 dried black lemons (loomi aswad)
1/2 cup cilentro, finely chopped
1/4 cup of corn oil for frying
Mix all marinade ingredients together. Thoroughly rub with the fish with marinade and set aside for 20 minutes.
Heat 1/4 cup of corn oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Add the marinated fish pieces. Lightly fry until just golden brown. You do not want to thoroughly cook the fish because you will be letting it simmer and finish cooking in the stew in just a little bit. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Mix the soaking tamarind seeds with your hands to separate the seeds. Drain into another bowl and save the water. Discard the seeds.
In a medium sized pot, heat the 2 tablespoons corn oil. Add the chopped onion and sautee until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and green chili. Stir until the tomato has become soft.
Add the Arabian Spice Mix, Maggi stock cubes, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and dried lemons.
Add the tomato paste, tamarind juice, and water. Stir. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cilentro and then gently add the fried fish chunks. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Serve in individual soup bowls accompanied with basmati rice and a platter of fresh greens.
Note: I have come across some Khaleeji recipes that cook this fish stew with potato chunks. In all the times I have had Marak Samak (fish stew) at my mother-in-law’s or other in-laws homes I haven’t ever had any stew with potatoes in it. I asked my husband one time about putting potatoes in the stew and he gave me the weirdest look sooo….it’s up to you if you want to try it with potatoes…If you are married to a local (Emirati) ask him first if he would like potatoes in his fish stew…before he gives you that “Are you crazy look?!?!”