Baked White Fish (Saniyat Samak fil Furn)

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I have a confession to make. I am a little embarrassed to share it with our midEATS readers. Here goes. I do not eat fish. There. I said it. It is now out there in the blogosphere for everyone to know. Yes, a so-called foodie doesn’t eat one of the most healthy food groups. Let me at least explain. I have a very, very strong sense of smell. I would say I have the nose of a bloodhound. I can smell things that are usually undetectable to the human nose. I like to think that is why I love cooking. I can literally smell if meat needs salt. Strange. I know. So, with that said, the smell of fish (and certain pungent cheeses) sets my olfactory system through the roof. Sometimes I literally gag when I walk past a the fish or cheese counter at the grocery store. I literally have programmed myself to avoid walking near those areas during  my grocery store runs.

Just because I loathe fish, does not mean that I do not cook fish. My dear husband loves fish and I feel bad for all the times he didn’t have anyone to enjoy eating sushi with (the smell of the seaweed on the cucumber rolls is too much for me as well). Also, I want my children to benefit from the essential vitamins and nutrients present in fish.

Fish is a low-fat, high quality source of protein chock full of vitamins, such as vitamin D, selenium, calcium, and phosphorus. Most importantly, certain cold water oily fish (e.g., salmon, anchovies, sardines) contain omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and other medical problems.

Most of you already know the dangers of farm-raised fish.  In the US, you can readily find wild salmon, Chilean Sea bass, etc. However, in the UAE, I do not worry so much about farm-raised fish as there are fish markets galore with fresh fish being brought straight from the Arabian Gulf, but we worry about eco-sustainability. There is a HUGE problem with overfishing of certain types of fish, like hammour (a type of grouper) out here. A not-so-recent article suggested that the local hammour was being fished at nearly seven times its sustainable rate. Thus, we have to look for alternatives, like sea bream, souli, other white fish options.  Nonetheless, my husband loves the taste of hammour, so I buy it every now and again for special occasions.

Enough already – let’s turn to the recipe. Saniyat Samak fil Furn is a dish that I very vividly remember in Egypt. On the days my family made this, I was stuck eating rice and salad. I actually call it “fish rice”, as my family only makes this type of rice with fish. It is sautéed onions, carmalized to a golden color in samna (ghee), then short grain rice is added and the resulting dish has a golden hue and sweet oniony flavor. The salad is diced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and chopped dill, drizzled with fresh lemon or lime juice. Although the fish is usually pan fried before being placed in the oven with the sauce, I skip this step and I honestly don’t think anyone notices. This saves some calories and keeps the dish light and healthy.

So without further ado…

Baked White Fish (Saniyat Samak fil Furn)

by Brenda

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Keywords: bake saute entree gluten-free Fish Egyptian Middle Eastern


Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 white fish fillets (try grouper or tilapia)
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup onion
  • ½ cup of a combination of chopped parsley, dill, and coriander (or you can just use whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 ½ cups of tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Pinch salt
  • Olive oil


(1) In a small bowl, combine the fish with the cumin, garlic, salt, lemon juice and dried dill. Be sure that the fish is coated with the marinade. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside while you prepare the sauce.

(2) Preheat oven to 375F (or about 200 C)

(3) In a large saucepan, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and ½ tsp of cumin. Sauté.

(4) Once the onions have softened, add the tomato sauce and the ½ cup of whichever herbs you decide to use (I use a combination of all three). Bring to a rapid simmer, then remove from the heat.

(5) In an oven-proof dish, place the fish at the bottom and top with the sauce mixture. Place in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.

(6) Serve with rice and a chopped salad. Enjoy!

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