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Recipe: Samak Maḥshī

Posted on 10/23/2018 12:00:00 AM in The Buzz

Eat as the Egyptians did hundreds of years ago with this fish recipe from the oldest Egyptian cookbook.

Historian and independent food scholar, Nawal Nasrallah, took it upon herself to translate the oldest Egyptian cookbook, Kanz al-Fawa’id Fi Tanwi’ al-Mawa’id, which contains 800-plus recipes. In 2017, Nasrallah published the complete Kanz, translated into English as Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table. You can learn more about the cookbook here, and why the Egyptians are credited as the initial inventors of Kool-Aid.

Narrallah sent us one of the translated recipes from the original cookbook (below) for a fish dish called samak maḥshī. We encourage you to travel back in time by whipping up this Egyptian fish recipe in your own home.

Samak Maḥshī

Fried Fish Smothered in Tahini Sauce (Recipe 233 in the English translation)
(Makes 2 servings)

A flavorful fish dish, which offers a delicious way to use tahini, other than the familiar humus condiment.


1/2 pound firm white fish, such as cod, cut into two pieces

For the fish rub:

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 crushed garlic clove

1 teaspoon crushed coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

Flour for dusting the fish pieces

Oil for frying the fish (1/2-inch deep)

For the tahini sauce:

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 teaspoon of each of black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, rose petals, all pounded

1/4 teaspoon salt, or as needed

1/4 cup of each of tahini, wine vinegar, and water

1/4 teaspoon saffron or turmeric


Combine the rub ingredients and smear the fish pieces with it. Put the fish in a colander set above a bowl, and set aside for about an hour. When ready to fry, dust the fish pieces with flour, and fry them in hot oil. Brown them on both sides, and keep them in a colander to get rid of extra fat.

Fry onion in one tablespoon oil, until nicely browned. In a small bowl, combine the spices and salt. In another bowl, whip together tahini, vinegar, water, and saffron or turmeric. Add contents of both bowls to the fried onion, and bring the mix to a boil while stirring.

Place the fried fish pieces on a platter, pour the prepared tahini sauce all over them, and serve.

Enjoy the flavors of Egyptian cuisine when you join our Suez Canal Crossing: Israel, Egypt, Jordan & the Red Sea Small Ship Adventure.

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