One of the most popular dishes associated with Jaffa, this recipe for fish over seasoned yellow rice is similar to those from other coastal cities in the region from Tripoli in Libya to Saida in Lebanon. Jaffa-born chef Nadir Abu-Seif reveals that the secret to the dish’s success is to use the fish’s flavorful frying oil to cook the rice. Another one of her secrets is to serve the dish alongside a tart sauce made with lemon juice, salt, garlic, and finely chopped green chili pepper. “This is the only way I eat rice,” she says — and rightly so.
1 whole Gilt-head bream (Orata, Dorada, Dorate) weighing 1.1 lb / ½ kg
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ cup neutral oil, for frying
½ lemon (optional)
For the rice
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Season the fish with salt, black pepper, and cumin. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the fish on both sides until nicely golden and cooked through. Remove the fish from the pan and save the oil for later. Squeeze half a lemon over the fish.
Transfer the frying oil to a pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the rice, turmeric, and cinnamon and mix well until the rice grains are completely covered in the oil and spices. Add 3 cups of water, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Place the fish in the rice pot and cook for 5 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with fresh herbs if you like, and serve.