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The Moroccan Fish Pie "Seafood B'stila"

posted on: May 31, 2023

Moroccan Fish Bastila (Pastilla) #wedding #Morocco #food #… | Flickr
Moroccan Fish Bastila – Flickr

By Alison Norquist / Arab America Contributing Writer

The Moroccan fish pie is a millennium-old sweet and savory pastry that has been declared a staple of Moroccan cuisine. Made up of a buttery, flaky crust enveloping moist spiced chicken and nuts. All while being covered in a light dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon. In this version, rich seafood will be combined with spices, harissa, and lemon juice to create a savory take on the dish.

Fusion Origins

Scholars have long believed that the creation of this dish came about when the pastry crust of the Mediterranean, known as both phyllo and warqa, was introduced to the Berber’s stewed chicken with eggs and fried almonds. Others believe Turkish and Spanish influences were the sources of this dish. Regardless of its history, it has been a long staple on Moroccan tables. The latest variations now boast fillings of seafood, sweet milk custard, or lentil mixtures in vegan circles. The key to the dish is the flaky pastry shell to showcase the ingredients of the filling through the sweetened cinnamon that covers the pastry.

Let’s Make it!


2 Tbsp cooking oil (vegetable, olive, canola, avocado, etc)

1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and cleaned

1/2 lb calamari, cleaned and diced

3-4 lbs white fish filets (swordfish, whiting, cod, sea bass)

1 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp harissa

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp black pepper

12 oz vermicelli pasta, broken into 3 in pieces

1 lb phyllo pastry, thawed

1/2 butter, melted

Chopped parsley and lemon slices to garnish


In a large skillet, heat half of the oil to medium heat. Add the shrimp, calamari, and fish filets in batches, setting aside the juice from each batch. Set aside the cooked seafood and gently flake the fish. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and add the spices, lemon juice, parsley, and harissa. Cook until fragrant and combine with the seafood, set aside to cool completely.

In a pot, boil water and cook the vermicelli as per instructions, adding the reserved juice from cooking the seafood. Drain and set aside to cool completely.

on a round pan, lay the first sheet of dough and baste with the melted butter. Lay another sheet on top and repeat until there are 5-7 layers. In the center of the dough, add the seafood mixture followed by the pasta. Wrap the edges of the pastry up and over the sides of the filling in a circle. On the folded edges, lay a sheet of dough and baste it with butter. Repeat until there are 5-7 layers and fold the edges gently under the sides, creating a fully encased pie. Brush the top with butter.

Bake at 400 for 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and crisp. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices as desired. Allow the b’stila to cool slightly before cutting into wedges for serving.


If you wish to omit shellfish due to allergies or diet, you can replace it with dried wood ear mushrooms. Rehydrate them according to the package before adding them to the filing.

There are two kinds of vermicelli. The rice noodle variety, which is typically found in Asian groceries, will work in this dish, as well as thin spaghetti noodles. Be sure to break the noodles into bite-sized lengths before cooking.

There are versions of this dish that include tomatoes as a sauce. Should you decide to do that, cook 2-3 diced tomatoes with the spices, lemon juice, and harissa until thickened. Toss with the fish as usual.

If using larger shrimp or prawns, you may cut them into 1/2-inch pieces to ensure even cooking and smaller chunks in the mixture for the filling.

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