Category Archives: Fish

Marak Samak (Fish Stew) with Halwayoh

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?!?!”

Grilled Hamra with Hashwa

Today’s “Fish of the Day” is Hamra.  In English this fish is also known as Red Snapper.

I will show you in today’s recipe how to prepare Hamra with an easy to make hashwa (stuffing).  Hashwa literally means “stuffing”.  This stuffing recipe is very easy to make and brings a wonderful aroma and flavour to fish.

Grilled Hamra with Hashwa or Grilled Red Snapper with Cilentro and Onion Stuffing


Hamra (Red Snapper) 1 kg or larger (the fish only needs to be gutted.  Do not scale or trim the fins!)

1 large onion, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium-sized green bell pepper, chopped (optional)

1 bunch of cilentro (kuzbara) chopped

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 heaped teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cumin powder (or Arabian Spice mix)

Since you will be grilling the Hamra the only thing you will need to do to the fish is have it gutted.  Gut the fish from the belly so that you will have a pocket to stuff the hashwa in.

Do not scale it or trim the fins. The reason for this is that you will be placing the whole fish directly onto the grill and having the scales still on the fish will prevent it from sticking to the grill.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix all of the ingredients (from chopped onion to cumin powder).  Note:  that this hashwa can easily be doubled or tripled according to how many fish you will be grilling.

cilentro, onion, garlic, green bell pepper

salt, black pepper, tumeric, ground ginger, cumin powder

Prepared hashwa

Now all you have to do is stuff each hamra with the hashwa as seen in the picture below.

stuffed Hamra waiting to be sewn up

Now you will need a large-eye needle and some cooking twine (I didn’t have any twine so I just used cotton yarn) for sewing up the belly of the fish.

All the Hamra sewn up

A close-up of my needlework!

Sewn up Hamra up close.

Now all you have to do is prepare your grill.  Grilling time will be approximately 1 hour.  Every 30 minutes turn the fish over so it will not char.  Do not turn the fish over before 30 minutes because it will break up over the grill and you don’t want that!

Hamra on the grill with some shrimp.

When the Hamra is finished serve on a platter.  When you get ready to eat it just peel away the skin.  Serve with the hashwa with a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

When I prepare grilled fish with hashwa I serve it with white rice, daqoos is optional, lemon wedges, and fresh greens.

If you so happen to plan a picnic on the beach in the evening all you need is a roaring fire, some lemons and bread from an Iranian bakery (khobuz Irani).


Red Snapper on FoodistaRed Snapper

Fish of the UAE – Sall

Today’s Fish of the Day is Sall which is part of the Carangidae family of fish.  I think that the English name for this fish is Brownback Trevally (someone let me know if I am wrong.)

MashaAllah my husband brought home this fish and it is huge!  It weighs about 3kg!  I could barely get it to fit in the camera’s frame! 

Sall is part of the Jesh family of fish.  Like the Garfa from yesterday it has small, smooth scales and is easy to clean.  The body of the fish is tall from top to bottom and is silver with a hue of yellow along the head, upper fin, and tail.  If you notice at the tail area, there is a raised ridge of hard scales that run from the tail to the middle of the fish…this is characteristic of fish in the Jesh family.

Since this is a huge fish, it will be scaled and trim of the fins.  Then it will be cut from the top of the fish all the way to the belly and gutted so that it will make a “pocket”.  I will make a hashwa (stuffing) of herbs and spices  and place it into the “pocket”.

The recipe and how I will cook this fish follows in my next post, InshaAllah (Allah willing).

Be sure to come back tomorrow on more Fish of the UAE, InshaAllah.

Fried Fish with a Dry Spice Rub

Since I am posting the pictures of Fish of the UAE I will go ahead and post this recipe to frying fish UAE style.

The recipe that I am sharing with you today is basically fish coated with a dry spice rub.  Almost all of the fish that you will in the UAE can be fried.  Depending on the size of the fish you will need to cut it into big chunks or if frying a whole fish that is fat in size, you will need to make a couple of slits on the sides to ensure even cooking.

In this recipe today I am using Chennad (Kingfish).  It is quite long so I had it cut into big chunks.



1 heaping teaspoon of Arabian Spice (or you can use garam masala or curry powder)

1 teaspoon of tumeric

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon of salt

(Note:  the spice mixture can easily be doubled or tripled according to how much fish you will be cooking.)

Corn oil for frying (I like to use Coroli corn oil)

Arabian spice mix, tumeric, cumin, and salt

Mix all the spices together in a small bowl.

Since this is a dry rub, sprinkle the fish with the spice mixture and then gently rub into the fish.  Let this sit, covered for at least 30 minutes.  The moistness from the fish will soak in the spices.

On a high flame, heat the oil in a deep skillet.  When you see the oil slightly smoking turn the flame to low.  Add the fish.

Cook for 5 minutes and then gently turn the fish over and fry for another 5 minutes.  Take fish out and drain on paper towels.

Serve with basmati rice, daqoos, and fresh greens.  Enjoy!

Fish of the UAE – Garfa (Indian Mackerel)

Today’s Fish of the Day is Garfa.

These silver with hues of green and gray towards the head area and along the top of the fish.  They are a close relative of a local fish called Dardemon (I don’t have  a photo of that one right now).  This fish is also a little plump around the body and very tiny smooth scales.

It is very easy to clean.  Just scale, trim off the fins. and gut the fish.  In our house we leave on the head when cooking.

These Garfa are small sized and have lots of bones so the best way to cook this fish is to deep-fry it.  The day my husband brought these home I seasoned them and then deep-fried it until it was crunchy.  The reason I deep-fry them like this is because of the small bones.  It is easier to just eat it all without worrying about choking on fish bones…but still you have to be careful.

More fish tomorrow, InshaAllah (if Allah wills).

Fish of the UAE – Sultan Ibrahim

Today and the next few days I will share with you a few kinds of fish found here in the UAE.  My husband is a fisherman and MashaAllah (how Allah wills) he brings home fish on a regular basis, Alhamdulilah (thanks to Allah).

Because each emirate here in the UAE is located on the Arabian Gulf you will find a fish souk.  Every day of the year you can find a variety of fresh fish and each fish has its own season.  Now that is colder weather fish like Shari and from the Jesh family are huge…about 2.5 to 4 kgs!

When shopping at the fish souk (Souq As-Samak) you will find two groups of fish.  One group is the fish that are caught by the fishing dhows in which the dhows go out on fishing trips that last about 10 days to 2 weeks.  Whenever fish is caught by a dhow they are kept in the boat’s freezer compartment for that amount of time and then brought to the fish souk to be sold.  The fish is still technically fresh (fresh frozen) and still good to buy of course.  The main stalls of the fish market sell fish from the dhows.

The other group of fish are the ones caught by fisherman who go out for 1 or 2 days and will bring back very fresh fish (some of which are still alive).  When buying fish from these fisherman you will find them on the outer perimeter of the souk.

Sultan Ibrahim (Threadfin Bream)

Sultan Ibrahim is best bought small (about 6 to 8 inches) if you should buy this fish bigger than that it has no taste at all.  This is one of my favorite fish to eat because it tastes so much like shrimp…but cheaper. 🙂

I season this with some local Arabian spice called bizar, salt, and tumeric and then deep-fry it until it is crunchy.

Fried fish at my home is always served with basmati rice and daqoos along with a variety of fresh greens like arugula and green onions.

This is picture of what I cooked the other day:  Sultan Ibrahim and Garfa.

More about fish tomorrow, InshaAllah (if Allah wills).