Middle Eastern Fish with Tahini (Samak bi Tahini)

fish tahini sauceThis is one of our favorite fish dishes. When we visited Junieh, Lebanon, in 1993 on our boat called ‘Royal Salute’ we fell in love not only with the Lebanese people but with their cooking and it was a happy coincidence when we met Sam and Heather on s/v Cordelia, originally hailing from England, in Turkey when we hunkered down for the winter in Antalya. Sam happens to be Lebanese and they both love cooking middle eastern food. They cooked this dish for us a few times and they graciously shared the recipe with me. It is a winner!

Tahini Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Tahini (sesame paste – find it at any specialty middle eastern store or Whole Foods)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup room temperature
  • 2-3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp parsley

Put all the ingredients in a blender starting with 1/4 cup of water and 2 tbsp of lemon and blend until smooth. Add more water and lemon as needed. The sauce should be creamy yet slightly runny. It should have a garlicky, lemony creamy taste.

Fish and Rice


  • 2 lbs fish (I use any fish we caught like Mahi- Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo) cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 -1 cup oil
  • 3 tbsp Pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish


  • Mix all the spices from pepper to salt in a bowl.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and fry the pine nuts until fragrant and golden brown. Remove and cool on paper towel.
  • Add onins and fry golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  • Add rice, 1/2 tsp salt and turmeric and a 1/4 tsp of the mixed spices. Coat rice completely in oil and spices and fry lightly for about 1 minute.
  • Add water and onions to rice and get to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 mins. Remove from stove and let sit about 10 mins.
  • While rice is cooking, combine flour with mixed spices and 1/2 tsp salt. Coat the fish pieces lightly with this mixture and shake off all excess flour.
  • Heat the oil in a big frying pan and fry the fish until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  • Fluff the rice and add pine nuts and put in large serving dish. Place fish on top of the bed of rice and spoon the Tahini sauce over everything.
  • Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
  • Leftovers can be served cold and is delicious!
  • *This dish can also be done with fish like Tilapia. Drizzle olive oil on fish, sprinkle the spice mixture over the fish and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.


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2 thoughts on “Middle Eastern Fish with Tahini (Samak bi Tahini)”

  1. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

    1. Estelle Cockcroft

      That is great! I am so pleased that you enjoyed it. Our Lebanese friends shared this recipe with us 20+ years ago and we still love it! Nothing quite like Middle Eastern food!

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