Hraymi - Spicy Fish, Libyan Style

Yehuda Balulu

Food Editor's Notes:  I have eaten this dish at the Balulus' home on several occasions and am thrilled to finally have the recipe on  Yehuda's parents emigrated from Libya to Israel, where they raised a large family and continued to practice and pass on their Sephardic traditions.  Yehuda is an excellent cook, with many Libyan specialties in his repertoire.  When Yehuda told me this dish was called Hraymi, I looked to see if it was mentioned in The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1996).  Sure enough, this is what she has to say about it: "North African Jews and, famously, those from Libya, are fond of this very peppery-hot garlicky fish…Libyan Jewish cooking is a mix of Italian and North African…Start with very little harissa or cayenne and add more to taste."  Yehuda makes this dish with salmon fillets and lots of cayenne pepper.  I make it with less cayenne, as my tolerance for 'hot' is not that high.  You can use other fish, such as steelhead trout or a white fish, but the fuller flavor of the salmon goes better with the strong sauce.  Serve this with couscous, rice, pita, or challah to sop up all that delicious sauce!



2 pounds salmon fillets, in 4-6 pieces

Head of garlic

Small can of tomato paste

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup lemon juice (approximately 4 lemons)

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil


Skin the garlic cloves and drop in the feed tube of a food processor that is running.  Stop the processor and add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, lemon juice, and water.  Process until the mixture is smooth and thick.


Pour the vegetable oil into a wide saucepan and add the tomato mixture.  Cook it, stirring occasionally, until hot.  Place the salmon fillets on top of the sauce, cover the pan, and cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish just begins to flake.  Serve hot.


Yield:  4 to 6 servings.


The Food Editor got to know the Balulus through our sons, who attended school together in Newton.  The boys are still best friends and the parents have shared lots of good times together, including basketball, bar mitzvahs, and one wonderful trip to Israel!  In addition to being a fantastic cook, Yehuda works as a contractor.


Hraymi Spicy Fish Libyan Style