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Samkeh Harra

Samkeh Harra

This is a dish that hails from Tripoli, Lebanon’s Northern port city, but is loved by everyone in the country and beyond. It is a show stopping dish. It is usually reserved for special occasions. Perfect for a buffet. It can be  eaten warm or at room temperature and  can be prepared the day before and garnished a couple of hours before  serving.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity should yield 4 servings

1 white fish, scaled and cleaned, weighing about 3 pounds
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled (at least 12 cloves total)
1   cup of walnut halves (can add pine nuts or pistachios)
2 chili peppers  such as jalapeño, or red chili pepper
3/4 cup of lemon juice
extra lemons
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 cup (or more) tahini
1/2 cup (or more) of water
salt, pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed



1. Rub the fish all over with a cut lemon. Pat dry. Heat the oven to 400F.
2. Mash the  cloves of garlic with a pinch of salt and the sliced jalapeño peppers (can do it in a mini-processor), in order to obtain a paste.  Add the chopped cilantro leaves. Pulse and when it is well mixed, divide the mixture in half, reserving one half for the sauce later.  Add the cardamom (or cinnamon) , cumin, pepper, coriander, and mix it all together. Add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice and olive oil to the mixture.
3. Spread the paste evenly inside the fish and a bit on top. If using fish fillets, just rub it onto the fillets. Cut a few lemon slices and place them on top of the fish and all around. Cover the fish with foil and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is cooked.


1. Take the garlic and jalapeño paste (the half that you have used  already) along with the cilantro. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a skillet and add the paste, stirring. Do not let the garlic burn, so cook for only 3 minutes at the most until fragrant. Let cool.
2. Grind the walnuts until almost powdery and set aside.
3. Heat the tahini in a saucepan, adding 1/2 cup of  the lemon juice and a bit of water to obtain a smooth sauce. Add the garlic and cilantro paste.  When the sauce thickens and boils, remove from the heat.
4. Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice  or salt to your liking. Add the walnuts and stir to mix.


1. Skin the fish and debone it as much as possible. Then put it back together on a serving platter.
2. Pour the sauce over the fish dabbing it with a spatula,  leaving the head intact.
3. Garnish with parsley or cilantro leaves, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts or walnuts and an olive to modestly cover the eye of the fish.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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