Mahi Shekam Por – Caspian Sea style stuffed fish

ماهی شکم پر

On February 23rd, 2019 I threw a dinner party and invited a few of my very close and dear friends who are self-proclaimed “The Caspian Chef taste testers” and I wanted to offer them a variety of fun and unique Persian food that I was fairly certain they had not had been familiar with.

I was also quite aware that I myself had not had this dish for 37 years. THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS! Ah…the first bite, the familiar taste of home, the playful texture of the fish roe, the tanginess of the barberries, the fragrant and familiar aroma of the herbs were a complete flashback to being a 15-year-old boy and remembering my mom preparing this dish at one of her dinner parties. OK – I know you are doing the math – I am 52!

She, of course, would have used one big giant fish that was stuffed to the rim and the cavity was sewn shut to keep the stuffing intact. I actually was looking through my photo albums to see if I can find a picture of the dining table with the fish at the centerpiece. I am afraid the one and the only image of that dinner exists in my nostalgic part of my brain.


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Mahi Shekam Por

An elegantly stuffed fish with herbs, barberries, walnuts and fish roe and saffron glaze.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, seafood
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: barberry, fish, fish roe, seafood, stuffed fish
Servings: 4
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef


  • 2 whole trout, butterflied and deboned
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces
  • 1 fresh lime, juiced
  • 1 cup walnut, finely ground
  • 1 cup dried barberries, soaked for 5 minutes and rinsed
  • 2-4 tablespoons fish roe


  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, ground
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Rinse the fish under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season the inside of the fish with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and set aside on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Wash the herbs, pat dry and place them in a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Grate the onion and add to this mixture.
  • In a skillet, saute the garlic in 4 tablespoons of olive oil for a couple of minutes before adding all the herbs and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt.  Saute for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and pour in the lime juice and mix well.  Set aside. 
  • In the same food processor,  add the walnuts and process until you have a fine ground.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ground walnuts and dried apricots to the skillet and saute over low flame for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Begin layering the stuffing into the butterflied fish cavity by spreading a layer of the fish roe, followed by a layer of the ground walnuts, then a layer of the sauteed herbs and lastly a layer of the barberries.
  • Bring the edges of the butterflied fish together and make sure the stuffing is secured in the fish cavity.  Brush the outside of the fish with the saffron oil glaze and place in the center rack in the oven. 
  • Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. 


Can also use striped bass, rockfish or any white-fleshed fish.
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