Recipe: Bahraini Sayadiyeh (Curried Whole Fish with Sweet Rice)

What to do when your favorite cuisine doesn’t have any restaurants that serve it? Make it yourself.


Apparently there’s no such thing as a Bahraini restaurant, which is why in this month’s ethnic food-focused “Food Lover’s Guide,” we had to look elsewhere to get our machboos and sayadiyeh fix. Enter Abba Al Meftah, the 35-year-old fashion marketing manager who was kind enough to invite us into her Venice home to show us exactly what kinds of deliciousness the island nation has to offer.

Cardamom, caramelized sugar, and rosewater are what give Meftah’s Sayadiyeh – a curried whole fish dish – its hint of sweetness, courtesy of the sweet rice with which it’s traditionally served. Not to worry though, there’s still plenty of lime, garlic, and spice to keep your tastebuds from crashing. Just try not to stare your dinner in the eye.


One whole fresh trout or snapper, gutted and scales removed
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder and curry powder, mixed together to make the spice blend
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups basmati long grain rice
3 cardamom pods
3 whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup rose water
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt


Cut 2 diagonal slits through flesh on each side of the fish.

Mix spice blend, crushed garlic, salt and lemon juice to make a paste. Rub all over the inside and outside of fish and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Wash rice in several changes of cold water to remove excess starch. Drain and set aside. In a medium pot, melt the butter and add the sugar. Cook over low heat until caramelized to a deep brown. Be careful not to burn it! Add cardamom pods, peppercorns, salt, rosewater and 3 cups of water. Stir until caramel is dissolved, then add the rice. Cover and steam on low heat for 30 minutes until done.

Fry fish over medium heat until it flakes easily and skin is crisp. Serve with sweet rice. 

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