Thanksgiving in Djibouti with Mukbasa or Yemenite poisson

My French teacher is from Djibouti, a tiny country in Africa near Ethiopia that has an important port and was once colonized by the French. His French is très bien but I was intrigued to learn about his native cuisine.

After hearing about Mukbasa (also called Yemenite poisson), I was able to get a rough recipe for it and found a few hints online. It seems to be a whole fish that resembles a tilapia, grilled in a wood fire pit. It is served with an assortment of sides including tomato dipping sauce and a thin flatbread like Indian chapati mashed with bananas, sometimes with honey or dates also.

I decided this would be a fun and challenging dish for Thanksgiving dinner, slightly modified to our taste – we don’t like that much sweet in a savory dish. The first challenge was the fish, after visiting 4 grocery stores looking for a whole white fish similar to the ones found in Djibouti, we settled on rockfish fillets.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole fish or fillets of firm, non-oily white fish
  • 2 tablespoons each of coriander (seeds that you grind yourself recommended), red pepper flakes and black pepper
  • 2 pieces of cheese cloth (optional)
  • 1 lemon (not traditional, you could skip)
  • 4-5 tablespoons walnut or other oil
  • 2-4 flat bread such as Indian chapati
  • 1-2 plantains (or ripe bananas if you want it sweeter and more traditional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the grill early enough to get it hot, this takes about an hour for me with natural charcoal and hickory chips
  2. Meanwhile, grind the coriander and pepper, if they are seeds
  3. Place the fish on a plate or in bowl and squeeze half a lemon over each, and a tablespoon of oil
  4. Place the cheese cloth over the fish (this ensures the biggest bits aren’t left on the fish)
  5. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of the 3 spices mixed together
  6. Marinate for at least 30 minutes if you can
  7. If using fillets, wrap in tinfoil and remove cheesecloth, then put in covered grill for ~10 minutes (tinfoil to prevent it flaking apart)
  8. If using a whole fish, butterfly it and place on the grill directly or in tinfoil, remove cheesecloth and cook for 10-20 minutes or until firm
  9. Peel and cut the plaintains into 1 inch pieces crosswise, fry in oil for 4-5 minutes until golden brown on each side, and soft-ish to a fork
  10. Place the chapatis in a warm oven to maintain heat
  11. When all items are done, place a chapati or two on the plate, put the fish and plantains on it, salt the fish to taste

      

Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s