smuggling anise seed

the smuggler is back! per my previous post, i was excited to learn that Food Network was going to have new webisodes from the runner up of The Next Food Network Star – season 5, Jeffrey Saad’s, pilot: The Ingredient Smuggler. i wish i knew his webisodes were live just one day earlier as i could have used this recipe because from watching TNFNS you know that when jeffrey describes food, your mouth begins to salvate.

at last night’s dinner with my parents, my mom asked me to prepare the tilapia she bought. with no recipes at the top of my head to try, i made a familiar steamed tilapia with ginger but if i watched jeffrey’s webisode – now renamed The Spice Smuggler – with this recipe, this is what i would have made. tilapia with anise seed. citrus, licorice flavor. “small seed … delivers huge flavor.”


i finally made this recipe! i usually don’t care for licorice flavor but the anise seed’s licorice flavor on the tilapia, the spiciness of the chili mole sauce and the crunchiness of the lettuce, all wrapped up in the tortilla … this fish taco is SO GOOD!


For the tilapia

  • 1 pound tilapia fillets
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons anise seeds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the chili mole

  • 1/4 white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons slivered blanched almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ancho chili paste (see below for recipe)
  • 1/2 corn or flour tortilla

For the tortilla

  • 4 corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/8 cup grated cheese (recommend cotija) or lowfat pepperjack cheese, optional


Season the fish with salt, to taste, and coat in anise seeds.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot add the tilapia and saute until golden on 1 side. Flip them over and finish cooking on the other side. Remove the fish from pan to a plate and keep warm.

In the same pan add the onion, garlic and tomatoes and saute until the onion is golden. Stir in the almonds and cumin seed and cook for 1 more minute.

Deglaze the saute pan with the water and stir in the chili paste. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Rip 1/2 corn tortilla into smaller pieces and add to blender. Puree until very smooth.

Briefly toast the remaining 4 tortillas over an open flame and lay 1 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Break up the fish and divide it evenly among the tortillas. Spoon the mole sauce over the fish, top with the shredded iceberg and garnish with cheese, if desired. Serve.

*** TIPS ***

  1. How do you know when a fish is done? You stick your spatula underneath the fish and if the fish breaks, it says it’s done – “I can’t take it anymore!”
  2. Throw garlic cloves whole because if they were chopped, the garlic will quickly burn … By leaving them (tomatoes) whole, the moisture is not going to come out to make it boil.
  3. Add 1/2 corn tortilla in the sauce to add corn flavor as well as to thicken the sauce.

original recipe from Jeffrey Saad: One Pan Tilapia Fish Tacos with 5-min Mole
webisode of the The Spice Smuggler’s Tilapia Tacos with Anise Seed

finally – Food Network brings us more webisodes of Jeffrey Saad’s The Spice Smuggler

ANCHO CHILI PASTE – recipe from The Spice House


  • 5 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 2 cups of hot water


Pour hot water over five dried ancho chile peppers. Soak until chilies are soft. Rinse chilies, discard stems and remove seeds. Place in blender or food processor and grind into a paste. Add more water if needed.


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