Ghalieh Mahi - Southern Iranian Spicy Fish & Herb Stew


This is my first recipe post after Nowruz and nothing could have been a more fitting recipe to write about than this popular ghalieh mahi dish from my home region of southern Iran. This dish not only tastes great but it also brings back memories from way back when. The aroma of freshly chopped cilantro, fenugreek and garlic simmering away in a red pepper hot tamarind sauce with tender yet firm pieces of fish on the kitchen stove takes me back to my childhood. With a few weeks into the spring season I am once again filled with nostalgic memories of Khuzestan's beautifully perfect but short-lived spring with red laleh (tulips), shaghayegh (red poppy) and wild flowers inside the patches of green fields along the roads and over the hills. Most years we had relatives and close friends of my parents come and stay for the Nowruz holiday. My parents were both very sociable and loved having people over.  My mother's cooking around this time of year, when our home was at its busiest, was more delicious than ever, or that's how I would recall!

There may be different variations to this recipe however, the main ingredients are fresh geshniz (cilantro) and shanbalileh (fenugreek). If you can't find fresh fenugreek don't omit it, it's an essential ingredient to this dish. You may use dried fenugreek instead which can be found in Persian/Iranian grocery stores and fresh fenugreek is always available at Indian stores where I live. Another key ingredient to bring the sour taste to ghalieh mahi is the tamarind pulp. It's better to buy a packaged tamarind and make your own paste by soaking the pulp in hot water and separating the seeds and stems using your fingers rather than buying a jar of the condensed tamarind sauce. Choosing the right kind of fish is also very important. Traditionally, this stew is made with fish from the south of Iran such as sangsar, hamoor, shooride, but I make it with any white fish that has no little bones and is firm enough not to fall part while cooking the stew. Ghalieh mahi is tastiest when made with lots of garlic and some red hot pepper. In the list of ingredients I write the amounts that I use in my cooking, please adjust the amount of garlic, red pepper and tamarind sauce to your liking.




Ghalieh Mahi - Southern Iranian Spicy Fish & Herb Stew

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 pounds fish fillet (tilapia, snapper, halibut, cod) or any fish of your choice, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups freshly chopped cilantro
1 cup freshly chopped fenugreek or 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek
8 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 medium onions, finely diced
8-ounce tamarind pulp
1 teaspoon red pepper powder
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil
Water

Method:

  1. Place the tamarind in a small bowl, cover with 2 cups of hot water. When the water becomes cool enough to touch, separate and remove the seeds and branches using your fingers and pass the liquid through a sieve. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of salt and red pepper. Generously coat the fish with the flour-turmeric mixture and set aside for 10-15 minutes.  Dust off any excess flour before frying the fish.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet and lightly saute the fish pieces on all sides on medium heat. Set aside.
  4. In a large pan saute chopped onions in 3 tablespoons of hot oil until translucent on medium-high heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and the minced garlic, cook for another couple of minutes on medium-low heat.
  5. Add the freshly chopped herbs to the pan, saute along with the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Pour in the tamarind sauce, simmer on medium-low heat until all flavors come together for about 15-20 minutes.
  7. Gently place the fish in the stew, add salt and red pepper to taste. Add more hot water to the stew if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cook for another 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Do not stir the stew.
Place the stew in a serving bowl and serve with basmati rice.

Enjoy!

29 comments:

  1. This looks delicious and love the fish bowl! Will definitely attempt this :-)

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  2. salam,azita.. how are you doing ? Thank you for sharing the recipe, perfect time for me. I plan to cook fish this afternoon,but no idea what should i do with tilapia :D will try your recipe and let you know the result. cheers..

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    1. Salam Fitri, please let me know how it turns out!

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  3. I have eaten something similar in Dubai and always wanted to try to duplicate the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  4. Sale norooz mobarak,

    kheyli motashakiram.

    sarvenaz
    sartemisanahita@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Sarvenaz jan, sal-e no shoma ham mobarak. Mamnoonam.

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  5. This looks delicious! Thank you for sharing this recipe with us!

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  6. Yummy! This is one of my favorite dishes. My dad is also from South. Thanks for sharing the recipe but I'm not sure if I can find all the herbs here.

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  7. thanks so much this is the first time that I have a ghaliye maahi recipe!What type of tamarind is best? pure or salted in bags

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    1. I usually buy the packaged tamarind pulp with seeds in it. Thank you.

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  8. salam azita joon man yek basteh tamarind kharidam vaghti ke taste kardam az taemesh khosham nayoomad chon ba unayi ke to iran mikhordim fargh dasht khastam bedoonam ke male shoma ham fargh mikoneh age bale too ghaza khoshmazzeh mishe.kheili azat mamnoon misham

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    1. Salam Janam, bastehaye tabre hendi keh inja mikharam mahsoole Thailand, India va ya Pakistan hast. Beh nazare man tambrhaye Thailand az lahaze taste bishtar be tambrhayee keh dar Iran mikhordim nazdiktar ast. Dar entekhabe tambr ham khoob ast keh basteh tambr narm basheh va ghabele enetaf. Chon bastehhaye tambree keh khoshk hastand tazeh nistand. Pas, tambre tazeh Thailandi baraye estefadeh dar aspazi khoobeh va khoshmazeh hast.

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  9. Hi! I love Persian food! I just want to know how is this recipe if I will prepare it a day early for a party? I'm an amateur cook that's why I ask since the recipe calls for fresh herbs and fish! I will be cooking this for 8 people!!! Please reply ASAP! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, you can make this dish a day in advance and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.

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  10. I am a very non-persian swedish guy. I just wanted to let you know that this (and many other of your recipies) looks absolutley delicious. Will try this during the week if I can find all of the ingredients.

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  11. Hi azita, where do you get the freshly chopped fenugreek? If I don't find it can you subtitue that with anything else? Thank you,

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    1. Fresh fenugreek leaves are available at most Indian markets. If you can't find fresh fenugreek try the dried fenugreek.

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  12. Hi Azita,

    your dish looks beautiful and I gave it a try and I am a little bit disappointed with my cooking.
    The smell of the dish was great, the fish nice and tasty but my herbs were too sour because of the tamarind I presume. With rice we have eaten it, however I think that the amount of tamarind masked other tastes. Even my color was more brown than green. Your dish is clearly green. Oh, and I used powdered fenugreek.
    I added something like 120g not prepared, pressed tamarind (product of Thailand, I did a half of the portion of the whole dish).
    So the preparation procedure was the same - I have added hot water and then passed it through the sieve.
    Do you think that there are clear differences in the tamarind we are using or the dish should be so sour?
    Next time I will try to use much less of the tamarind. Anyway it was worth of trying :-)
    Thank you for your blog.
    Wioletta

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    1. Wioletta, yes, you may want to cut back on the amount of tamarind next time since its sour flavor overwhelmed this dish. Also, to keep the herbs on the green side you may want to just sauté them lightly without over frying them. I am so glad you gave this recipe a try! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

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  13. Thanks for the recipe, my husband loves this food so much even if he is not from Southern-part of Iran. That's why I couldn't ask the recipe from my mother-in-law, so many thanks to you...:-* kisses

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  14. The Soup Chick has this recipe featured; I am very fond of various forms of Italian fish stews (brodetto! YUM!-- and quite garlicky, very good for the heart) so I think I may like this as well. We have a well stocked international market not too far from the house, where I'll look for the fennugreek and tamarind paste.

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  15. Thank you so much for this recipe. I am Khoozestani, born and raised in Abadan and Ahwaz, I always talked about this food which was my mom's favorite during the winter tiem. I left home when I was 19, and never got a chance to ask my mom how she made this. I like to know besides white fish , what other fish would you recommend? I was thinking about Cod or Tilipia? What would you think. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. I have made ghalieh mahi with both cod and tilapia and both work good. I have also made it with salmon but I didn't like it that much. Thank you!

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  16. Hi, my mother in law makes this with tomatoes in the stew as well. She just cuts them into quarters and adds it when she cooks the onions and garlic. So yummy!

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  17. I've tried the this recipe and it's wonderful, delicious :)Thanks for sharing ;)

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