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Sayadieh (Fish With Spiced Rice And Caramelized Onions)

Sayadieh (Fish With Spiced Rice And Caramelized Onions)

A sensational dish from the syrian coast on the mediterranean. Rice is cooked with caramelized onion and fragrant spice and topped with seared fish. Fish can be fried, grilled, baked or cooked with rice. The recipe calls for whole spices but you can substitute with ground ones.


2 pounds fish fillet (or four fillets)

1 fish head

3 big onions

3 sliced gloves garlic + 3 gloves of mashed garlic

1 teaspoon fresh ginger

1 teaspoon whole cumin + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon whole cracked cardamom

1 Cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon paprika

6 tablespoons vegetable oil 

2 tablespoons sauteed pine nuts (optional)

2 cups rice (medium grain or basmati)

salt and pepper to taste


1. Wash the rice and soak in warm tap water for half an hour. Then drain and set aside

2. Slice the onions and thinly slice the garlic. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pot and saute the onions until caramelized (but not burnt). Reserve 1/3 of the onions for garnishing, then add the garlic and saute for one minute.

3. Add 3 cups of water on medium heat.

4. In a cheese cloth, add the whole spices (ginger, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves). Tie and dip into water with 1 teaspoon salt. If cheesecloth is not available, create any type of pouch to help you get the essence from the spice and discard them when done. If whole spices are not available, use half the portion of ground spices.

5. Add the fish head and bring to a boil (you can replace the fish head with fish bones, a fish fillet or just use ready-made fish stock instead of water). Let the stock simmer for 15 minutes.

6. Remove the spice pouch and fish head. The stock should have a brown color from the caramelized onions. In a blender or food processor, puree the onions and return to the stock. Some people skip this stage.

7. Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, paprika, coriander, salt and black pepper. Paste fish fillets with mashed garlic then season with spice mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

8. Add the rice to the stock and bring to a boil. While still wet, reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked. You may need to add 1/4 cup of water half way through.

9. Add 3 tablespoons to a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add fish fillets and fry on each side for 4 minutes. You can also grill, bake or even add the fillets to the stock to cook with the rice.

10. To put the dish together, pile the rice in a serving platter and top with fish fillets. Garnish with caramelized onions and sauteed pine nuts.

11. Serve hot with Tarator (tahini dressing) on the side

makes 4 servings


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