Samak B’Kamuneh: Baked Sole in Spiced Tomato Sauce

With a beautiful coast along the world-famous Mediterranean sea, Syria has no shortage of fresh, delicious seafood. As a result, Syrian cuisine includes a long list of amazing seafood dishes that truly bring the most out of its ingredients.

One of such dishes is samak b’kamuneh, or baked fish in spiced tomato sauce. This dish uses a myriad of spices and herbs from the heart of the spice trade to marry the freshest seafood with the rich bounty of the earth. The result is a mouthwatering dish with a perfect balance of impossibly clean, tender sole and addictively complex sauce in every bite. Served over Syrian rice, samak b’kamuneh is a standout seafood meal that is sure to make the list of your all time favorites.

If you like this recipe, I encourage you to give back to Syria by donating to The After School Special’s fundraiser for children in Syria. Every donation makes a big difference to a child in need.

So without further ado, the recipe:

Samak B’Kamuneh: Baked Sole in Spiced Tomato Sauce

October 16, 2014


  • 1 lb sole fillets (or any other mild-flavored white fish)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
  • 2 + 2 Tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme (I grind it so it isn’t hard to chew, but some like it unground)
  • 1 tsp paprika/piment d’Espelette
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)


Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roughly chop the tomatoes (I leave the skins on), and sautee them in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.


When the tomatoes soften, gently mash them with a fork or wooden spatula until you have a thick tomato sauce. Keep the sauce simmering until you can trace a line on the bottom of the pan without the sauce filling back in for an entire 20 seconds.


Meanwhile, while the tomato sauce is still simmering, grind the paprika/piment d’Espelette, cumin, thyme, and coriander together. Mix with the water to form a sort of spice and water mixture.


Add the parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, spice and water mixture, salt, and 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil to the simmering tomato sauce. Stir to combine, adding more water as needed to keep the sauce from burning and sticking to the pan.


Continue to simmer the sauce at medium heat until the onions are just tender. Adjust salt to your taste (it should be just a teensy bit on the salty side, since the fish itself is not seasoned). Turn off the heat.


Oil a 9×9 baking dish. Rinse the fish off and pat it dry with paper towel. Line up the fillets in the dish.

Try to use the freshest fish possible. It really makes a difference in flavor and texture. Look for fish that looks clean and bright (not dull), and smells more like sweet scallops than a fish market.


Spoon all of the sauce over the fish. By the time you have used all the sauce, the fish should be completely covered.


Tent the dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Even though your house will smell amazing, refrain from lifting the foil up in the middle of the baking time! The foil locks in steam, keeping the fish supremely moist.


After 15 minutes, remove the foil. Test the fish for doneness by gently swiping some sauce to the side and making a small incision into the fish with a butter knife. If the fish looks white throughout, it is done.

Carefully place one fillet on each plate, garnishing with parsley. This dish is traditionally paired with Syria’s specially-seasoned rice. Enjoy!

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