There may be different variations of قلیه ماهی ghalieh mahi however, the main ingredients are fresh گشنیز geshniz (cilantro) and شنبلیله shanbalileh (fenugreek). If you can't find fresh fenugreek don't omit it, it's an essential ingredient in 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. The tamarind pulp is another key ingredient in bringing the sour taste to ghalieh mahi. 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 apart 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 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
2 pounds fish fillet (salmon, snapper, tilapia, halibut, cod) or any fish of your choice, cut into small pieces
3 cups freshly chopped cilantro
1 cup freshly chopped fenugreek or 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek
7 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 medium onions, finely diced
6-ounce tamarind pulp with seeds or 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1 teaspoon red pepper powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil/olive oil
- Place the tamarind in a small bowl, add 1 cup of hot water and soak for 20 minutes. When the water becomes cool enough to touch, separate and remove the seeds and pass the liquid through a sieve. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon 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.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet and lightly saute the fish pieces on all sides on medium heat. Set aside.
- In a large pan saute chopped onions in 3 tablespoons of hot oil until translucent on medium-high heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and the minced garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes on medium-low heat.
- Add the freshly chopped herbs to the pan, and saute along with the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Pour in the tamarind sauce, and simmer on medium-low heat until all flavors come together for about 15-20 minutes.
- Gently place the fish in the stew, add salt, pepper and red pepper to taste. Add a little more hot water to the stew if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes on low heat. Do not stir the stew.
Serve warm with basmati rice.