Zach Engel

Zach Engel

James Beard Winner and Chef, Galit, Chicago

Fried Fish with Tunisian Curry, Avocado Labneh, and Tehina

Fried Fish with Tunisian Curry

We’re in the kitchen of this James Beard Award winning chef from Galit Restaurant in Chicago, Zach Engel. Listen along as Zach takes you through one of the most popular dishes on his menu made easy. 

If you’re cooking along with us at home, find the ingredient and preparation list below or listen and enjoy for your next meal inspiration. 

COOK’S NOTE: To hear how to make Chef Zach’s Avocado Labneh, fast forward ahead to 40:00. Also, check out to see Chef Zach’s tehina recipe.

Makes 4 servings


For the Tunisian Curry:

  • 3⁄4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups whole garlic cloves, pureed in a food processor or minced down to 2⁄3 cup worth
  • 5 Tablespoons smoked paprika (hot or sweet, whichever you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground
  • 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds, ground
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin, ground
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander, ground
  • 2⁄3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt

For the dredge:

  • 2⁄3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup cornstarch
  • 1⁄4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Canola oil, for frying, about 2-4 cups
  • Coarsely chopped fresh herbs, to garnish
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • For the Avocado Labneh (if making):
  • 1⁄4 cup labneh (or Greek yogurt)
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 whole preserved lemon, pith and insides removed and peels rough chopped
  • 3 avocados, pitted and skinned
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  • Medium saucepot, about 4 qt.
  • Whisk
  • Medium mixing bowl/shallow dish
  • Large, 12” stainless skillet
  • Slotted spoon or spatula or tongs
  • Blender (if making avocado labneh)

For the Tunisian Curry:
Put the 3/4 cup of canola oil in a medium saucepot and bring to medium heat. Add the minced garlic, turn heat to low and cook until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring often with a whisk. It should be slightly golden brown and fully cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

Pull the pot off the heat and add the paprika, cayenne, caraway, cumin and coriander and whisk continuously for a couple minutes. Add the tomato paste and whisk to combine. Place the pot back on low heat and mix to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Cook to allow the flavors to come together, continuing to whisk every now and then, about 10 minutes. It will look like a thick paste and have a deep reddish brown color.

Add the water and salt, whisk and cook until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes more, or until it resembles the consistency of ketchup.

For the fish dredge:
In a medium mixing bowl or shallow dish, whisk to combine the flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, salt, sugar and turmeric. Set aside.
Heat a large frying pan with the 2 cups of canola oil over medium heat, until oil reaches 350-375 degrees F. Season the fish with salt and pepper, toss in the dry dredge mixture (six or so pieces at a time), gently shake off the excess and gently drop into the oil. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move them around so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook, turning occasionally if necessary, until lightly golden brown and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove using the slotted spoon or tongs and place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle the fish right as it comes out of the oil with a little salt.

Serve the fish immediately with the Tunisian Curry and Avocado Labneh (if made). Garnish with some fresh herbs and a few wedges of lemon.

For the Avocado Labneh:
In a blender, add the labneh, lemon juice, preserved lemon and avocados. Puree until it is all smooth, season with salt and puree again until it is as smooth as possible. You may need to scrape the sides of the blender to puree it all together. Transfer to a small bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the top so it is touching the surface of the sauce. This will prevent it from discoloring. Refrigerate until needed.

For the Tehina:
Crush the garlic cloves on a cutting board with the side of a large knife and add to a small bowl of lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, puree the garlic, lemon and salt mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate. In a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the raw tahini for about 5 minutes on high speed. Decrease the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the garlic-lemon juice. The tehina will get very grainy and tight in texture but will get smooth immediately after. Slowly add the ice cold water in a steady stream. Once all the water is incorporated, turn the speed on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see the tehina become smooth and glossy and become very airy like an aioli
or a mousse.

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