Desperately Seeking Sumac

Crusted Fish and Rice Pilaf with Asparagus

Crusted Tilapia and Tomato Pilaf with Asparagus

Soon, I will be off on an adventure in a strange land, eating exotic food and exploring things older than my country.

Dramatic, yes! J and I are off to Turkey, and while there I will be taking in all of the new flavours. In fact, I’ve decided to start early. I bought some sumac, which is used in some Turkish dishes, and I’m ready to explore.

What is sumac like? This sounds kind of silly, but it tasted like smokey fire roasted tomatoes and berries. Weird, no? That’s what I thought of while I was eating it. I think it’s also important to be able to smell it, which is why it’s great to top a dish with it. The smell is at the same time intoxicating and bizarre. Seriously, I can’t think of any other spice that is like this. I think I’m in love.

OK, so I don’t know what constitutes “authentic” Turkish cuisine. Most of the dishes I see include some lamb, which I’m not against trying but will not be preparing any time soon. I’m also not quite ready to make a table full of Turkish mezze. I did a little bit of digging, and found this interesting sounding dish consisting of breadcrumb coated fish and a tomato rice pilaf.

Is it Turkish? Not sure. It sounds inspired by Turkish food, at the very least. It also sounds yummy.


Finally! Fresh, in-season, Ontario asparagus!

I added some local fresh asparagus, and was ready to roll! How was it? I really liked the coating on the fish, and had lots left over (wish I had more fish to coat!). I had to cook the fish a little longer than the recipe called for, but in the end it was cooked perfectly. I thought that there was not enough sumac in the dish – the smell and taste of the sumac got a little lost in the breading. I added some extra to the bread crumb mixture, and ended up sprinkling it all over the rice pilaf.

Intrigued? You can find the recipes I used at the links below. I used tilapia instead of flathead, I used pecans instead of walnuts, I think I doubled the sumac in the coating and I cooked the fish a little longer than suggested… but yeah, really great recipes from a site that I think I will have fun exploring. Check it out!

Recipes from What You Having for Your Tea?

Breaded White Fish with Sumac

Adapted from this recipe on What You Having for Your Tea?.


  • 400g fish fillets (flathead etc).
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
  • salt & pepper


  1. Place the flour in one shallow bowl, the egg in another bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the walnuts into a food processor and whiz into a fine breadcrumb texture.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix together the nuts, breadcrumbs, paprika, sumac, nutmeg and cilantro.
  4. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Cut the fish fillets into long strips, about 5cm wide. Dip them in the flour to coat, then into the egg then into the crumb mixture and coat well. Shake off the excess lightly then arrange in a shallow dish that has a cover.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour to firm up.
  7. Heat about 2cm of olive or vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and when just hot place a few fish strips in to fry.
  8. Cook for 1 minute either side (depending on thickness) and then drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining fish.Serve hot.

Tomato Pilaf

Adapted from this recipe on What You Having for Your Tea?.


  • 1 cup basmati rice (rinsed)
  • 20g butter (unsalted)
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (peeled & seeded then chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups water or weak vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a moderate heat until just bubbling. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5-6 minutes until soft.
  2. Turn up the heat slightly then add the rice and stir for about 5 minutes until all the moisture evaporates.
  3. Pour in the water then stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer very gently for 10-15 minutes undisturbed until all the water has evaporated.
  4. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel then return the lid. Leave for 10 minutes then gently fluff with a fork just before serving.

3 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Sumac”

  1. Hi Steph,

    I look for ideas – e.g. sumac – from bloggers like you, who want to learn more about Turkish cuisine, its ingredients etc. My blog, hopes to expand the understanding and appreciation of Turkish cuisine around the world. Thanks for this idea! We will try to feature “sumac” very soon. It is indeed a very common spice in Turkey and used a lot for its slightly sour taste. Good catch! Most people assume it is the same as chile powder.
    Have a good trip. I hope you enjoy Turkey and find many more flavors that will intrigue you!

  2. Ooh, thanks for the link!! I have a feeling I’ll be on your site quite a lot once we get back…

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