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Mahi Shekam Por: A Culinary Delight for Nowruz Celebration

Mahi Shekam Por, a traditional Persian dish, is a delightful culinary creation that adds a unique flavour to the Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebration.

Mahi Shekam Por, which translates to “stuffed fish,” is a dish typically made with a whole fish stuffed with a savoury mixture of herbs, nuts, and aromatic spices and baked or grilled to perfection. The result is a succulent, flavourful dish that is both visually appealing and irresistibly delicious.

Serving Mahi Shekam Por during Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and family. The fish symbolises life and abundance, making it a fitting centrepiece for the holiday feast, where it is enjoyed amidst the laughter and joy of loved ones gathered together.

Basic Ingredients for Mahi Shekam Por


Sea Bream or Sea Bass: These types of fish are ideal for Mahi Shekam Por due to their firm texture and mild, sweet flavour, which pairs well with the rich stuffing. They hold up well during baking, ensuring the dish maintains a pleasing presentation.

Olive Oil: Olive oil is used sauté the aromatics and herbs and keeps the fish moist and flavourful during baking.

White Onion and Garlic: These aromatics form the flavour base of many dishes, including Mahi Shekam Por. They provide a sweet and savoury background that enhances the stuffing’s taste.

Turmeric Powder: Adds a warm, earthy flavour and a golden hue to the stuffing, contributing to the dish’s visual appeal and its antioxidant properties.

Chilli Flakes: Adds a slight heat to the dish, balancing the rich flavours of the herbs and nuts.

Black Pepper and Salt: Essential seasonings that enhance the overall flavour of the dish.

Mixed Fresh Herbs: The combination of coriander, parsley, tarragon, basil, chives, and dill adds a vibrant, fresh taste and aroma, symbolising the freshness of spring during Nowruz.

Walnuts: Add texture and a nutty flavour to the stuffing, complementing the soft flesh of the fish.

Mejdoul (Dates): Their natural sweetness contrasts with the savoury and herbal notes, creating a balanced flavour profile.

Tamarind Sauce: Introduces a tangy element, adding complexity and depth to the dish’s flavours.

Saffron: Offers a luxurious aroma and a beautiful colour to the fish, symbolising wealth and prosperity for the new year.

alternative ingredients

Fish Alternatives: If Sea Bream or Sea Bass are not available, you can use other firm-fleshed fish like trout, snapper, or even salmon. The key is to choose fish that can hold the stuffing and won’t fall apart during cooking.

Olive Oil Substitutes: If you prefer not to use olive oil, other oils like avocado oil or grape seed oil are good alternatives. They have high smoke points and mild flavours suitable for baking and sautéing.

Onion and Garlic Variants: In case you want to vary the flavours, shallots or red onions can be used instead of white onions. Similarly, if you’re out of fresh garlic, you can use a small amount of garlic powder as a substitute.

Turmeric and Chilli Flakes Alternatives: If turmeric isn’t available, a pinch of curry powder can add a similar colour and a slightly different flavour profile. For chilli flakes, you can use a dash of cayenne pepper or paprika to add heat or smokiness, respectively.

Herb Varieties: The choice of herbs can be adapted based on availability or preference. For example, mint could be added for a refreshing note or rosemary for a more robust flavour. Just ensure the herbs complement each other and the fish.

Nut Replacements: If you’re allergic to walnuts, consider using pine nuts, almonds, or even seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a crunch.

Mejdoul (Dates) Substitutes: If dates are not your preference or if they’re unavailable, you can use dried apricots, figs, or raisins. For a more tart flavour, add serekh (barberry). This will add a tart contrast to the savoury flavours.

Tamarind Sauce Alternatives: If you don’t have tamarind sauce, you can use use pomegranate molasses instead.

Saffron Substitutes: While saffron has a unique flavour, if it’s unavailable, you can use a little turmeric mixed with paprika to mimic its colour, though the taste will be different.

Preparation Tips for Mahi Shekam Por

  • Ensure the fish is properly cleaned and scaled before stuffing.
  • When stuffing the fish, don’t overfill it to prevent the stuffing from spilling out during baking.
  • Brushing the fish with saffron-infused lime juice not only adds flavour but also helps achieve a golden colour.

Serving Tips for Mahi Shekam Por

  • Serve the fish whole on a large platter, surrounded by fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds, and orange slices for a festive and colourful presentation.
  • Accompany the dish with sides like saffron rice or a fresh salad to complement the flavours.

Mahi Shekam Por

Servings: 3 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 3 whole sea bream or sea bass
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 100 g mixed fresh herbs, (coriander, parsley, tarragon, basil, chives, dill), plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup mejdoul dates , roughly minced
  • 2 tsp tamarind sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground saffron, (dissolved in 1 lime, juiced)


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Season fish with salt and pepper.Coat the fish with saffron diluted in lime juice in both sides and inside.
  • In a shallow pot, heat butter and vegetable oil.  Sauté onions for 5 to 7 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add turmeric powder, chilli flakes, salt and black pepper; stir and fry for a few seconds. Add the chopped fresh herbs, fry for 5 min. Add walnuts, dates and tamarind sauce and fry for a couple more minutes.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the fish on the baking sheet. Add a couple spoonful of the stuffing mixture inside the fish, and top with a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Secure the top end of the fish, just below the head, with a knot using butcher's twine. Create several loops by pulling the twine outward from the anchor, forming a large, loose loop under the fish. Repeat this process along the length of the fish.Once reached the end, tie off the twine and cut off any excess.
  • Bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, timing depends on the size and thickness of the fish.
  • To serve, garnish with fresh parsley leaves, pomegranate jewels and sliced orange on the side.

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