Fish Yassa

When my family and I lived in San Francisco, we often visited a little restaurant in the Mission District called Bissap Baobab. I particularly loved their hibiscus cocktails and a mustardy fish dish. Recently, I recalled the fish dish and tried to figure out what went into it. In my research, I came across a lot of references to a Senegalese dish made with variations of lemon, vinegar, and mustard. While it did not sound exactly like the Bissap Baobab fish, it sounded delicious enough for me to give it a try. I started building the recipe from some toasted coriander, black pepper, and chiles — and the results were delicious, and very, very spicy. When I first tried a sample of a dried arbol chile, it was not so hot, but after a second little nibble, my lips lit on fire. I did find that cold cream cheese, applied as lipstick, does wonders for stopping the burn… and for my next attempt, I may choose to remove the seeds before adding the chiles to the dish to cut down on the heat.


  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 small dry red chiles (arbol are nice, but hot!)
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced into moons
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound white fish, whole or fillets (I used tilapia)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cups broth (I used Dashi, but chicken or vegetable broth works too)
  • 3/4 pound yellow potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes


  1. Crush the coriander, pepper, and chiles with a mortar and pestle. Toast until fragrant in a large sauce pan, then transfer to a large bowl. Add onion, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard, then tuck fish into the mixture until covered completely, and marinate for about 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Remove fish, salt each side, and cook for a few minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.
  3. Remove the onions from the marinade, and them add to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Pour remaining marinade into the pan along with the broth. Nestle potatoes into the pan, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat, until potatoes are tender, roughly ten minutes. Add fish back to pan to warm. Serve over rice, quinoa, or another grain.



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