Fish Yassa

March 11, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

When my family and I lived in San Francisco, we often visited a little restaurant in the Mission District called Bissap Baobab. I particularly loved their hibiscus cocktails and a mustardy fish dish. Recently, I recalled the fish dish and tried to figure out what went into it. In my research, I came across a lot of references to a Senegalese dish made with variations of lemon, vinegar, and mustard. While it did not sound exactly like the Bissap Baobab fish, it sounded delicious enough for me to give it a try. I started building the recipe from some toasted coriander, black pepper, and chiles -- and the results were delicious, and very, very spicy. When I first tried a sample of a dried arbol chile, it was not so hot, but after a second little nibble, my lips lit on fire. I did find that cold cream cheese, applied as lipstick, does wonders for stopping the burn... and for my next attempt, I may choose to remove the seeds before adding the chiles to the dish to cut down on the heat. —savorthis

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Savorthis is the author of a blog of the same name. She lives in Denver, CO.
WHAT: A spicy Senegalese-inspired white fish and potatoes dish.
HOW: Marinate white fish in a spicy, tangy mixture of ground chiles and spices, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard. Pan-fry in peanut oil, then use the leftover marinade to cook onions and potatoes, and serve it all over rice.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This dish is Spicy with a capital S -- but that's why we love it so much. This fish is unapologetically bold, featuring flavors like coriander and horseradish. Feel free to dial back the chiles, or do what we did and embrace the spice -- with a tall glass of milk at the ready. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 small dry red chiles (arbol are nice, but hot!)
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced into moons
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound white fish, whole or fillets (I used tilapia)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cups broth (I used Dashi, but chicken or vegetable broth works too)
  • 3/4 pound yellow potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Crush the coriander, pepper, and chiles with a mortar and pestle. Toast until fragrant in a large sauce pan, then transfer to a large bowl. Add onion, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard, then tuck fish into the mixture until covered completely, and marinate for about 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Remove fish, salt each side, and cook for a few minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.
  3. Remove the onions from the marinade, and them add to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Pour remaining marinade into the pan along with the broth. Nestle potatoes into the pan, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat, until potatoes are tender, roughly ten minutes. Add fish back to pan to warm. Serve over rice, quinoa, or another grain.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Idalu
  • Urs Baur
    Urs Baur
  • Beth Lavinder
    Beth Lavinder
  • savorthis
Co-Owner/Designer @ Where Wood Meets Steel-Custom Furniture

10 Reviews

Naz December 22, 2023
Love this recipe - I’ve made it twice now. I do feel like 3 C of broth is far too much. I reduced to 1 C. Also, the potatoes are good but not necessary. This dish would be every bit as amazing without them. So, if you don’t have potatoes on hand, skip them!
Idalu December 11, 2015
Always good to expand one's culinary horizons. The recipe was simple and tasteful. I skipped the broth altogether, simply double he marinade and let is simmer at the end and poured on top of the fish sans potatoes. I use a bit of flower before frying the fish and will use again.
robinnested February 16, 2015
I made this last night, after it came in my weekly email from Food 52. Yum! My co-op was out of arbol peppers, so I subbed in new mexican ones--still very good. I definitely will make again and with more heat! My boyfriend and I both loved this.
savorthis February 19, 2015
Glad to hear it!
Urs B. February 16, 2015
Loved this - kind of improvised with some of the oils / vinegars and ingredients, kept it on the milder side of spicy but the dish was a little big hit! Thanks much
savorthis February 19, 2015
I'd be curious to hear what your subs were and happy you enjoyed it!
Beth L. February 15, 2015
I love that restaurant. I remember a fish dish there that was incredibly delicious and succulent. My memory is that it was made with coconut milk.
savorthis February 19, 2015
Do you remember the special dish they only had on Sundays? That is my memory anyway. They also had incredible hibiscus cocktails....
Ellen March 20, 2014
I made this last night, and enjoyed it very much. My husband and 3-year-old daughter also enjoyed it (I subbed 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes for the chiles). Next time I might skip marinating the fish, to get a better sear in step 2. The sauce was very flavorful, and I look forward to making it again. Thank you!
savorthis March 20, 2014
I'm glad you liked it! I thought the marinade added some great flavor and I think that patting it dry and even dusting it with a bit of flour would work to help add more color.