Lemony Fish Bughlama with Vegetables and Herbs

In Azerbaijan, bughlama is the general name given to the dishes in which the main ingredient, fish, meat or poultry, simmers with minimal or no liquid added to it, typically along with fresh vegetables and herbs. In fact, the word bughlama comes from bughlamag, a Turkic word which means to “steam” or “to cook in its own steam.”

This particular recipe is for fish bughlama prepared with beluga sturgeon (European sturgeon). In California I use swordfish instead.

There are many other variations of bughlama with other kinds of fish, such as omul, karp, and ossetra. Bughlama is especially popular in the regions washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea and the Kura River.  They get to make it with the fresh catch of the day. Nush Olsun!

Lemony Fish Bughlama with Vegetables and Herbs (Balig Bughlamasi)

Serves 4

2 pounds beluga (Eurpopean sturgeon) steaks, skinned and cut into medium size pieces (substitute with swordfish steaks or any other fish with firm flesh)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1 Italian green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (substitute with Bell pepper), (1 cup)
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 dry bay leaves
1 small lemon, sliced into 4 slices
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange the pieces of fish over on the bottom of a medium saucepan, wide enough to hold the ingredients in separate layers. Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste.

Top the fish with a layer of tomatoes, follow with layers of green peppers, celery and parsley. Toss in the bay leaves and top with the lemon wedges. Dot the top with the butter.

Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with bread.


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  1. This looks heavenly! I love the concept of letting the ingredients cook in their own steam. I’ll make a mental note to make this when I get some really fresh fish. 🙂

  2. A delicious dish! Healthy and good!



  3. Oh! Love the way you prepared this fish…looks delicious, full of flavor 🙂

  4. Easy, simple, delicious and nutritious! Love it! I must try this soon! =)

  5. Oh!!! Fish!!!!!

    I love cakes, vegetables and fish!!!

    I should wait until autumn, You know in Azerbaijan it’s not recommended to eat fish in months that names don’t contain the letter “r”!! 🙂 So I need wait until Septemberrrr :)))


  6. Farida, How do we bring this to a boil? There is no liquid in the ingredients section or the preparation. Do we add some water/broth to the fish???? Thanks 🙂

    The picture is wonderful!!!

  7. Delicious! The colors and textures are teasing my tastebuds.
    I’ve been enjoying a lot of steamed (and also roasted) fish lately, and I never tire of it.

    Fari, is the moisture provided by the vegetables, lemons and butter, or do you add another liquid to this dish?

  8. ALLA & MARYSOL: No need to add any liquid. The vegetables, lemons and butter will do the job – they will release their juices and the fish will cook in it. Enjoy!

  9. Hi Farida 🙂
    Another amazing recipe! Love it!!!

  10. Hey Farida
    I like this method! Since I am not that crazy about fish, it kind of brings in other flavors quite nicely into the pot.

  11. This is beautiful. I have done this before and didn’t know there was an Azerbaijani name to it 😀
    I like to layer onions on the bottom.
    Lovely photo at the top.

  12. A fantastic healthy beautiful dish!! Love it 🙂

  13. Farida,
    This dish looks yummy. It’s so spring and healthy !

  14. Thank for the recipe… i made it for dinner along with the Savory Potato-Carrot Loaf… everyone enjoyed it.

  15. Dear Farida,do you think this recipe will work with tilapia?

  16. N?KK? – Tilapia is too tender for this.

  17. I love this meal with nar-sherab. Thank you Farida.

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