Sephardic sashimi, with a twist

“My father would eat an appetizer which was raw fish with lemon squeezed onto it. I think it is called LAKADA, made from mackerel. He would eat it with greek olives and bread.
I am a Sephardic Jew who grew up in Brooklyn and now live in Kansas City and would like to know how my mother prepared this dish for my dad.” – Joseph

The recipe name you’re trying to remember is lâkerda,  the Turkish name for an appetizer of marinated raw tuna or of bonito, which is indeed a kind of mackerel (When made with bonito, it is  called palamida, which is the Greek name for that fish).  Both are oily, blue fishes.  I’m not partial to mackerel, but I love raw tuna marinated in lime juice and this is essentially the same thing.

The technique is very straightforward; probably the most difficult part of making lakerda is cleaning and boning the fish.  How you approach that will depend upon the kind of fish you’ve got, and what’s available at the fish market depends upon where you live.  If you don’t know your way around fish, ask your local fishmonger for guidance, or to clean the fish for you.  And if you can’t get fresh mackerel (you probably can’t), ask for a good substitute.  Or use a mild, white flesh fish, which will be a different experience altogether.

When you’ve settled on your choice of fish, place the cleaned, fresh fillets in a glass or ceramic dish, cover liberally with lemon juice and leave to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.  Bring the fish to room temperature, drain it and serve, with a splash of olive oil, if you like, to balance the acidity of the lemon juice. A spash of fresh-squeezed orange juice is also pretty sensational.  Tradition calls for olives, too, just as you remember from your childhood (I’m guessing you mother served kalmatas). These will complement the snack with their saltiness  (Is it mean of me to be posting this a few hours before Yom Kippur?).

Should you be wondering, the lemon cooks the fish, but if the prospect makes you squeamish, first freeze the raw fillets for a day or two, thaw them in the refrigerator and then marinate immediately while still cold.  Any leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within 2 days.

Thanks for your question, Joseph.



Filed under Holidays (fiestas judias), Recipes, Your Questions Answered

6 responses to “Sephardic sashimi, with a twist

  1. Victor Hazan

    My father who would occasionally fish for tuna off Montauk, Long Island loved to make tuna lakerda. I hadn’t thought about it again in many years, and I am going to make it, and have it in memory of my beloved mother and father. Victor Hazan

    • kathy0330

      Oh, Victor, could you please post the recipe for me? Aside from covering the fish with lots of salt, and a plate with a rock on it, I just can’t remember how to make it. The lemon juice or vinegar and oil cane later.
      Thanks so much!


  2. Kathy

    I see a recipe for this by marinating the fish with lemon juice. My father always put the fish chunks into a pot, put LOTS of salt on it, placed a plate (or just a cover) into the pot, and a rock on top of that. It needed the weight. After about a week or so, he would check on it, to see if it was “cooked”. If it was ready, he would rinse the fish well, and add a little oil, and just a few drop of lemon juice, or vinegar, to taste. We would eat it with a crusty french bread, after he carefully sliced the fish chunks. It was DELICIOUS, and something we would all look forward to eating.

  3. Ino Alvo

    Kathy, the process you described, putting salted raw fish under haevy stones for a month of two has nothing to do with lakerda. The fish so trated were called by Salonician Jews “soymas” or “soymecos”. I remember from childhood that I did not like them because they had an intense smell of raw fish.
    On the other hand, lakerda is very scarce these days. When a small quantity becomes available, its price skyrockets.
    Fortunately, there exists a worthy and uexpensive substitute, the “palamida” described elswhere, which is a much smaller fish. You buy a whole palamida at Middle Eastern groceries. Lakerda and palamida are both available in normal and smoked versions. I prefer the smoked one.

  4. Yitzhak Bilman

    I am also sephardit, from Istanbul, We made the lakerda from a fish called TORIK equivelant to king fish or bonito. The secret is to marinate the fish (21/2 ” thick) in a container for one week with
    1 to 10 ratio salted water, then remove the chunks of fish and
    store the fish covered with salt, non metal container until all juices is removed from the fish, by checking ones and a while, the bottom of the container. The fish must be refrigerated At that time the meat turn to a swordfish color, That means the fish is cooked, remove salt, by cleaning the fish chunks, add little olive oil and eat with lemon juice and red onions. The meat should taste not fishy, and it has a silky texture.

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