Samaka Harra (Syrian Spiced Fish)

The traditional food in Syria is similar to other cuisines like the Levant, Lebanese and middle-eastern cuisines. Close to this cultural diversity, Syrian cuisine is an amalgamation of various culinary styles. Some of these dishes are piquant, some colorful and some not so much. However, all these foods have an exquisite taste that would leave you wanting more.

Samaka Harra originated from the Syrian and Mediterranean coast . It is a very simple dish. In Lebanon, Samke Harra is made by baked fish with a spicy tahini sauce and other spices and ingredients, but in Syria, the dish is made by baking cleaned fish with a garnish of spicy tomato sauce. The sauce is made using garlic, onions, pepper, salt, and tomatoes. Add a generous layer of the sauce over the fish and its cuts, add olive oil and bake for an hour or more until the fish is fully cooked in the sauce and the oil oozes out to the pan. The cooked fish is absolutely delicious and melting soft that it will leave your taste buds wanting more.




6 large garlic cloves, peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 fresh red or green long chili peppers, seeded

1 small onion, cut into pieces

1 large ripe tomato (9 to 10 ounces), peeled and seeded

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds

1 whole red snapper (about 6 pounds), scaled, gutted and cleaned but left whole with head and tail on

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves



In a mortar, pound the garlic and salt together until mushy. Put the chili peppers and onion in a food processor and chop finely. Add the tomato and process in bursts until it is chopped. Remove to a medium-size bowl and stir in the pounded garlic, tomato paste and cumin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Score the fish in three places on each side. Lay the fish in a baking pan and coat with the olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with the chili pepper sauce. Bake the fish until the dorsal fin feels as if it will come off with a tug, about 1 hour, basting with the accumulated olive oil in the baking pan. Sprinkle with the coriander and serve.


Lara khouli