Grilled Whole Fish in Chili, Garlic, and Mint Sauce

In Jaffa, the picturesque old city next to Tel Aviv, Margaret Tayar has a famous seafood restaurant specializing in Moroccan cuisine prepared in her distinctive way.  Her food –highly spiced and fragrant– is delicious.  She is known for her fish couscous and for her simple and delicious spicy grilled fish.  The recipe is my adaptation of Margaret’s fresh and zesty salsa that so well dresses the charcoal-grilled bream.  Serve with steamed potatoes, zucchini, and carrots.



Serves 2



2-4 fresh green chilies, minced


1-2 garlic cloves, minced


1 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled, or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves


2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


4-5 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil


Salt, to taste


1 whole sea bream, branzino, porgy, or gray mullet (about 1 1/2  pounds), or any other head-on fish suitable for grilling


A few grindings of black pepper


1/2 cup finely diced peeled and seeded fresh tomato, drained


2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley



In a bowl add the chilies, garlic, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little salt and mix thoroughly, then taste and adjust the seasonings.  It should be spicy.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 2 hours.


Broil the fish on both sides, or grill over a charcoal fire, turning once, until firm, almost done, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cover with aluminum foil. Let stand for 5 minutes.


Mix the sauce with the chopped tomato.


Serve the fish with the sauce on the side, or cut the fish open, remove the central bone and transfer the fillets to a heatproof platter.  Pour half the sauce over the fish, sprinkle with some pepper, and place under a very hot broiler for a few seconds before serving. 


Pass the rest of the sauce separately.





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