Balik Kavurmasi: Turkish fish stir-fry

turkish fish recipe

Another first: fish on the blog for the first time! We don't eat it that rarely. The only problem so far has been that we've always found it difficult to get fish.


"In Istanbul?" you may be asking yourself. We asked ourselves the same thing. But it's true.


Although Istanbul lies between two seas (the Black Sea and the Mediterranean) and there is one fish restaurant after another in the city center, there was very little fish in our neighborhood. Fresh fish was sometimes available at the weekly market in cold weather.


Although: very rarely in our two years here did we see a street vendor pushing fresh fish on a wheelbarrow through our alley. This was only occasionally the case in winter, but it was a nice surprise when the man returned from a short trip to the supermarket with a large bag of fresh anchovies (hamsi), 


Frozen fish from the supermarket? A sparse supply of rainbow trout (aka türk somonu - Turkish salmon), mackerel, mezgit (a type of haddock), anchovies (hamsi) and mini shrimps, all of which were frozen due to the broken cold chains.


However, we have now been living in a high-rise building in a satellite city for some months. Who knows, maybe there was no fish in our old neighborhood because no one could afford it. But here we have a fish store and lots of fish restaurants that deliver. So we are finally able to enjoy authentic Turkish fish dishes - Balik Kavurmasi, for example. 


Balik Kavurmasi: what is it?

We have only recently become familiar with balik kavurmasi, the Turkish fish stir-fry. However, after we ordered balik kavurmasi from a fish restaurant, we fell in love with fish stir-fry. Imagine typical Turkish flavors, i.e. lots of garlic, butter and paprika, in combination with fried, meaty pieces of fish. Add a few other vegetables, subtle, good seasoning and the turkish fish recipe is ready to be enjoyed. 

turkish fish recipe

But be careful, because the balik kavurma should be nice and hot. Ideally, you should use hot green pointed peppers (available in Turkish supermarkets as "sivri biber*). Regardless of this, add as much pul biber* to the fish pan as possible or you can stand. Garlic, aromatic pul biber (not simply "just spicy"), butter, fish - you're in for a treat.


Which fish you use for the stir-fry is up to you. However, it should be fillet or at least fish without bones and skin. We used mezgit, a type of haddock. But salmon or trout also taste great. Another very similar fish dish is "Karides Güvec", which uses prawns. 


By the way, kavurma just means "stir-fried" and balik is the fish. As a comparison, you can see our Kavurmali Pilav, Turkish rice with meat. The most important part of this Turkish fish recipe is the butter, which gives it a rounded taste and forms a creamy sauce with the water released from the fish and vegetables. Serve with Turkish white bread. 


Another advantage of this dish is that it is really quick to prepare. Balik Kavurmasi is therefore a real step-by-step recipe that is ready at the table in 20 minutes. 


Fish in Turkish cuisine

Actually, this topic deserves an entire product page. That will certainly follow, but in the meantime, here's some information in advance. 


Fish is popular throughout Turkey, although it naturally plays a far more important role in the coastal regions. Fish is always eaten in the typical Turkish way and without much frills. 


This means: grilled, stirf-fried or deep-fried. It is usually seasoned with salt and served with bread, greens (rocket, parsley, salad) and lemon. Lemon is essential for Turkish fish recipes - and it is SO good! A drop of lemon on your grilled fish or hamsi tava (anchovy pan) or midye dolmasi (mussels stuffed with rice) is simply the cherry on the cake.


The desserts also deserve a special mention. Because in Turkey, after a balik sofrasi (fish meal), it has to be helva or something with tahini (e.g. tahini-helva or, very modern, tahini souflee). This is a common practice in households and these usual suspects can also be found on the dessert menu of fish restaurants.


Why? We don't know. We've already done some research and yes, there are a few approaches that make some people think it's good for digestion and health. Ultimately, however, it is probably more of a culinary custom.


Incidentally, our Balik Kavurmasi is quite colorful for a Turkish fish recipe. Nevertheless, it is traditional and really tasty regardless. It may well be that you dip the last drop out of the pan with the bread. And who knows? Maybe there will soon be a whole category dedicated to Turkish fish recipes. Afiyet olsun!


Balik Kavurmasi recipe: Turkish fish stir-fry

Ingredients (3 portions)

  • 400 gram/1lb fish fillet
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red pointed peppers
  • 3 green pointed peppers (preferably hot)
  • 200 g mushrooms (as small as possible)
  • 2 full tablespoons of butter 
  • salt and pepper
  • 0.5 tsp paprika powder
  • Pul Biber* as much as you can stand :-)


Step 1: Halve the onion and cut into rings. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. 

Step 2: Add the onions to the pan and fry until translucent. Meanwhile, finely slice the garlic clove and add it. Mix everything together.

Step 3: Cut all the peppers into thick rings. If the peppers are very thin, simply cut them into 1-2 cm thick pieces and add them to the pan.

Step 4: Wash the mushrooms and add them uncut to the pan. Fry everything over a medium-high heat and mix well. 

Step 5: Cut the fish fillets into larger pieces. Add them to the pan. Sear everything until the fish is cooked through. Now just season everything, mix the fish pan and serve everything hot.



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