Mahi - Fish (Fried, Smoked or Baked) Persian New Year's Day Lunch/Dinner


A traditional Nowruz lunch or dinner always includes a platter of sabzi polow (mixed herb rice) with mahi (fish). The fish is usually served either doodi (smoked/salted) or sorkh kardeh (pan-fried). There are many wonderful fish varieties in Iran, from darya-ye Khazar (Caspian Sea) in the north and khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) regions in the south and each region has its own selection of favorite fish. In the past, any delicate seafood products from the Caspian Sea or the Persian Gulf regions would not have reached a far away distance without spoilage. Unlike nowadays, when most food ingredients are available all year round, back then having fresh seafood for those who didn't live near these areas was a luxury. Therefore, salting/smoking and drying fish and shrimp were the traditional ways of food preservation long before the technology and the invention of the yakhchal (refrigerator). Although, Iranians had mastered their own method of preserving ice in mud brick domes called, yachchal (ice-pit) dating back to 400 BC. Mahi sefid (whitefish) from the Caspian Sea region is among the preferred type of fish for the Nowruz feast. The popularity of mahi-sefid grew in other parts of the country since it became available with the improved means of transportation and refrigeration.Whitefish has many bones in it so you just need to be very careful eating it! However, its pin bones are easy to remove. For this recipe I have chosen three different types of fish with three different preparation methods.


The most important Nowruz tradition in our home growing up, other than the gathering around the haft-seen table in our new clothes at the time of sal-e tahvil (spring equinox), was the Nowruz lunch! My father who never liked fish of any kind would bring a large mahi doodi (smoked whitefish) and also some sort of fresh local mahi jonoob (fish from the south). He liked his Nowruz whitefish pan-fried brown and crispy and it was always served with sabzi polow and kookoo sabzi. Here's another recipe for kookoo sabzi with walnuts and also my first recipe for sabzi polow mahi.

1- Mahi Sorkh kardeh - Fried Fish

Ingredients:
Serves 4

4 pieces (2lb) flounder fillets, or any fish of your choice, scales/skin removed
1/3 cup flour, all purpose
1-2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper powder *optional
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder *optional
A pinch of turmeric powder *optional
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes or a large narenj (Seville orange)

Method:
  1. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Season the fillets with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried fenugreek leaves.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt the butter and add the oil on medium-high heat. 
  4. In a bowl combine the flour with a small amount of turmeric. Coat flounder fillets in the flour mixture, gently shake off any excess flour before placing the fillets onto the hot pan one at a time. Lightly brown fish on both sides for a few minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and place on a platter. Squeeze fresh lime juice or juice of a Seville orange over the fish.
Serve with sabzi polow (mixed herb rice), salad, and torshi.

***
If you find smoked fish to be too salty you may rinse it under cool running water for a few minutes and pat dry. I like to wrap smoked fish in aluminum foil with some fresh, dried herbs and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes.


2- Mahi Doodi - Smoked Whitefish

Ingredients:

2 pounds smoked whitefish
1 tablespoon flour,
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
A few sprigs of fresh parsley, dill and chives, finely chopped
1-2 limes
Olive oil

Method:
  1. Squeeze the limes all over the fish, inside and out.
  2. In a small bowl combine flour, dried herbs and rub the mixture inside the fish.
  3. Place fresh herbs inside the fish and sprinkle a tablespoon of olive oil over the inside cavity of the smoked fish.
  4. Wrap the fish in foil and place in the 350 degrees Fahrenheit pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes.
Serve with sabzi polow (mixed herb rice), salad and torshi.

***

This salmon recipe is from my late mother who never quite liked the taste of salmon and its pink color. To her, salmon always looked raw. That's why she preferred it to be pan-fried first and then baked in the oven to ensure that it is fully cooked!


3- Salmon - Pan Fried and Oven baked

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 pounds salmon fillet, rinse under cool water, pat dry and cut into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons dried dill weed
1-2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper powder *optional
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 garlic cloves. finely minced
Olive oil
2 limes or a large narenj (Seville orange)

Method:
  1. Season the salmon with the dry ingredients.
  2. In a heavy skillet heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.
  3. Lightly fry salmon fillets on both sides for a few minutes.
  4. Transfer the fish into an oven proof dish, you may want to layer the bottom of the pan with thin slices of lime and place the salmon fillets on top.
  5. Add the minced garlic, drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the fish and place into the 350 degrees Fahrenheit pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and squeeze fresh lime or Seville juice over the fish.
Serve with sabzi polow (mixed herb rice), salad and torshi.

Enjoy! Nowruz Mobarak!

17 comments:

  1. really lovely dishes, Azita Joon. i am like your father, i like the fish pan-fried and crisp, too. x s

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  2. all look delicious :) Saale No Mobarak from UK

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  3. oh my that looks so delicious, have a nice week end Azita

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  4. mmmmmm. that's so delicious. we eating sabzi polo mahi (mahi sorkh karde),every sale no's night :)
    umadan e bahar Mobarak!

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  5. Dear Azita, I don't know why I can't leave you a comment from my typepad account any more!
    Anyways just wanted to say how much I adore your sabzipolo mahi recipes. They are so mouth watering and totally bring me to Nowrouz mood.:-) Happy 4shanbeh souri as well and thanks for sharing.

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  6. NoRuz Piruz Azita joon! This dish looks so yummy! I'll be making it this weekend when we have some friends over :)

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    1. Kiana jan, eid-e shoma mobarak!:)

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  7. What a lovely picture! Last night my mother-in-law prepared striped bass for the first time, along with her first choice of mahi sefid, trout. I prefer salmon, but it's not a white fish. : ( Noruz-e-toon Piruz!

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  8. What an absolutely wonderful sounding meal, and I may not be celebrating Nowrus directly, but this will get me in the spirit.

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  9. There is no dinner or time of the year etter than norouz and having family friend together with white fish and baghela plow ad lime and radishes, most and khiar and chaai after. I was born from itaalian dad and french mother, but I always loved Iranain Nowruz. My dad was ambassador in Iran from Italy, and I remember the party and for ure the most beautiful ladies of land DOkhtar Ironi which No country has more beautiful lay than Iran.
    memory, I am 39 years old and Cardio Surgeon

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  10. Hello Azita, I don't know HOW I have not found this website sooner! I have been with my Persian wife for four years now (I am American) and we are traveling seven hours south this Nowruz to visit her family. I would like to cook Sabzi Polo Mahi for them, as her father has not had it since they lived in Iran 30 years ago. Do you know where I might find some Mahi Sefid? I have been reading a lot and see that some use Tilapia, but I am trying to use something from the Caspian Sea like they had decades ago when they were young.
    Do you have any connections or ideas as to where I might obtain some actual Mahi Sefid?

    Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it.

    Merci

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    Replies
    1. I usually cook whitefish for Nowruz. Sorry, I don't know where to find Mahi Sefid here.

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  11. Thank you for your lovely recipes. One question I have is how do you keep the fried fish warm, or how do you warm the fried fish before serving. I didn't want to be frying fish while my guests are here and wanted to get the frying over with an hour before everyone arrives. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. You can keep it in the oven at the lowest setting.

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    2. Shall I cover them with foil? Will they not get dry? Thank you

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    3. You can cover it loosely with foil.

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  12. mahi fish looks super delicious

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