Toni Sobel’s Spicy Fish in a Packet

Toni's Recipe Notes:  I learned to cook Oaxacan food from my mother-in-law and other amazing women who have spent their whole lives creating daily meals for their families, and wondrous banquets for village festivities with native ingredients, both wild and domesticated, along with ingredients that reached Oaxaca from Europe and Asia after the conquest.   They are the recipients of generations of tradition and wisdom about our food and cooking techniques that are so amazingly diverse. I feel truly blessed that they have been willing to pass this treasure on to me.

In the mountain village where I tasted this dish for the first time, and on my home stove, it is placed  directly on a comal (a metal or clay griddle). Since it's now outdoor grilling season, the packets can be placed on a medium hot gas or charcoal grill for 10 minutes for the snapper or tilapia or 15 minutes for the halibut.

If key limes aren't in season, you can substitute regular lime juice.

Servings: 4


  • 46-ounce portions of a mild white fish like red snapper, tilapia or halibut
  • 3 to 4 key limes (plus extra limes for serving)
  • 1teaspoon Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2cup mayonaisse
  • 1 to 2smallcanned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 2medium (about 8 ounces) white onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 1small bunch cilantro
  • 4 12-inch X 18-inch sheets of super strength/extra heavy duty aluminum foil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide up the fish between the 4 pieces of aluminum foil, placing the fish 2 inches back from the edge closest to you. Sprinkle each packet with 3/4 teaspoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

Blend mayonnaise and chipotle along with the adobo sauce in a blender or small food processor until smooth. Divide the flavored mayonnaise between the 4 packets and spread to cover. Sprinkle the onions over the top and add 3 to 4 sprigs of cilantro.

Fold the aluminum foil over the top of the fish till the edges meet at the bottom. Seal by turning the edge over twice. Seal the sides of the packet in the same fashion. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat the process with the other pieces of fish.

Place in oven and bake for 13 to 15 minutes for the snapper/tilapa or 17 to 19 minutes for the halibut. Test with a fork to make sure it is done. The fish should be flaky and no longer translucent, and onions just cooked through.

Place the packets on individual dinner plates. Each person can open their own fragrant packet and garnish with fresh sprigs of cilantro. Serve with rice, a green salad and lime slices. You can make more of the mayonnaise dressing to accompany it in case anyone wants to add a bit more spice.

Toni teaches cooking classes both in her home and around the U.S. She also conducts food tours designed to give you a chance to both see and participate in a variety of food preparation as well as enjoy the most interesting restaurant and home cooked food available - pit cooked lamb and goat, bread baked in adobe ovens, fresh white and string cheese being made just to name a few.

In addition, she conducts personalized cultural and archaeological tours all over the State of Oaxaca as well as other regions of Mexico. You can contact Toni through her web site Tour or by phone at 011 52- 951 5175947.


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