Juicy Pan Seared Hamour (video)


Grouper ‘Hamour’! I had my first savour of this delectable scrummy fish in 1993 while visiting my mother in Kuwait. Coming from Damascus located southwest of Syria only river trout was sold in the market. For some reason, fish from the Mediterranean never made the trip to inland markets. I recall my first ever visit to the fresh fish mongers market with my mom and sister. My eyes wide open observing the array of colourful species that I have never seen before. My mom had her eyes set on this beautiful 4 kilogram Hamour. After negotiating a good price, the fish monger cleaned it for her. Back then, they used to have these little tiny shops outside the market with big deep fryers, charcoal grills and ovens when fish bought is prepared as one desired. You could even ask the chef to prepare it with his masala if you are not sure what flavours you wanted. Mom handed her purchase to the chef and chose spicy masala grilled Hamour a la chef. Within half an hour it was ready for pick up to take home. I recall the drive back home in a car filled with an aroma of sea and spice. Home seemed so far away even though it was only a ten-minute drive. As I took my first morsel a big smile painted my face. It was love at first bite. Until today grouper and seabass are my favourites. They both come from the serranidae family… no wonder I love both. Grouper’s flesh is lean and moist with a firm texture and a rather mild taste. It is best prepared with delicate ingredients in order not to overpower its flavour. 

I am lucky to live in Dubai; one of the most advanced cities in the world and home to the new water front market which is built on the same plot of the Old Deira Fish Market where I had joyfully shopped for fish many times before its demolition. The new market is a state of the art building, a one-stop-shop for everything from meat, poultry, fresh vegetables and fruits, dry goods and, of course, fresh local and imported fish. 


How to choose your fish? 

I have been asked time and time again how to choose fish. I am thrilled to share with you below the most important signs to look for when picking you fish to ensure maximum freshness: 

1. Look for fish that has shiny skin and firm scales. 

2. The flesh should be firm and bounce back when pressed with the finger. 

3. The eyes should be clear and not cloudy. 

4. There should not be a strong fishy smell and no slime on the body. 

5. The gills should be dry, slime free and bright red or pink in colour. 

I always recommend buying your fish from the fish market, a fish monger or a renowned supermarket, as you can guarantee the fish station is replenished with fresh fish constantly. 

This meal is perfect for those busy people with little time to spare in the kitchen. Fast, healthy, nutritious and delectable. 


Serving: 2


For the fish: 

  • 2X300 grams grouper fillets, skin on 
  • 2 cloves garlic, skin on 
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper 



For the sauce: 

  • 200 grams cherry tomato, sliced 
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly pounded 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • A squeeze of lemon 


For the griddle: 

  • 200 grams asparagus 
  • 50 grams snow pea pod, fresh, whole 
  • Salt 



  • Cut each fillet in half at an angle then turn over skin side up. With a sharp knife make a few scores on the skin to make sure that the skin does not curl up during the searing. Make sure you do not cut the skin from side to side. Turn them over and season with the spices, salt and pepper. 
  • Meanwhile, crush the garlic with the blade of the knife. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on high heat. When it starts to smoke place the fish, skin side down, as seen in the video and sear on high for 3 minutes or until the skin is crusty. Add the garlic and turn the fish over to sear for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. 
  • Oil the griddle and grill the asparagus and snow peas for 2-3 minutes and set aside. 
  • In a clean skillet bring 1 tablespoon oil to heat, then add the hazelnuts and fry for 30 seconds then add the crushed garlic. As soon as the garlic turns golden and releases the aroma toss in the cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper and sauté for 1 minute only adding a squeeze of lemon. 
  • Put the vegetables in the center of the plate and top with the seared fillets skin side up and spoon some of the sauce over. 




  • Using a cast iron skillet is best for searing meat and fish. 
  • Let your fish rest a few minutes before serving. 
  • This technique can be followed using any fish fillet, the searing time will vary depending on how thin or thick the fillet is. 
  • You will know the fish is cooked when you gently touch it with a fork and it flakes immediately.


Per Serving: 677 Calories; 42g Fat (55.0% calories from fat); 64g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 172mg Sodium.