One of the most popular street foods at home is grilled (or lightly fried) fish, served between slices of our traditional white loaf. Fishermen grill the fish at their boats and prepare this sandwich right there for you; with a breeze from the Bosphorus and view of boats passing by, that first bite is just heavenly.
Turkey is bounded by the sea on three sides – the Mediterranean,Aegeanand the Blacksea. With the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and Dardanelles at northwest,Turkeyhas over 7,000km (4,350 miles) of coastline. The plentiful fishing waters provide daily catches of bluefish, red and grey mullet, swordfish, sea bass, tuna, bonito, turbot, plaice, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and many more. In most of the coastal regions, fish is bought very fresh, straight off the boats at the daily fish market, still swimming around in the buckets or beautifully arranged on ice.
Visitors to Turkeyoften surprised to find such a strong fish culture here. Istanbul Eats, , a serious eater’s guide to the city, has a wonderful article on the fish scene of Istanbul, if you would like to check out.
We Turks enjoy fish done in a simple way; it can be grilled as whole, or as fillets, with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning over the top, like it is served at the wonderful Giritli Restaurant in Istanbul. A chunky wedge of lemon and fresh rocket & red onion salad usually accompanies the ultra fresh fish.
Another popular street food is rings of calamari fried in a light batter. I recently came across a wonderful version of this at Kalofagas, where the Canadian born Greek blogger Peter adds lemon zest to the batter which makes the calamari really crispy and fragrant.
Well, my inspiration for this easy and delicious grilled fish served over crunchy sourdough bread with capers & herb mayonnaise came from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage TV series; I love their fresh, no fuss intake on food and making the most of seasonal ingredients. I tweaked their recipe with my sumac dressed red onion, tomato and parsley salad. The citrusy, tangy sumac really goes well with the grilled fish. You can get sumac in Waitrose (in the UK), Wholefoods Market or Central Market in the US or in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Online supermarkets MarkeTurk and Tulumba carry a good range of Turkish spices, including sumac.
I hope you have a go at this easy, delicious fish sandwich (Balik Ekmek, as we say it in Turkish) with the refreshing sumac salad. Haddock fillets, sea bass, cod or sardines would especially work well here. If you’re not a big fan of bread, boiled potatoes by the side is excellent too.
Grilled Fish on Sourdough Bread with Herb Mayonnaise, served with Sumac, red Onion and Tomato salad; “Balik Ekmek ” with a twist
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time:15-20 minutes (please check the suggested cooking time for the fish of your choice)
4 fillets of white fish of your choice (I used haddock fillets here)
10ml/1bsp olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Slices of sourdough bread to serve
Slices of gem lettuce, washed, to serve
For mayonnaise with capers & parsley:
20-30ml/2-3 tbsp of good quality mayonnaise (you can use light version if you like)
20ml/2tbsp baby capers, rinsed
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
For Red Onion, Tomato and Parsley Salad with Sumac:
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
A handful of flat leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
30 ml/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
5 ml/1 tsp ground sumac
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Grease the baking tray with a little olive oil (or line aluminium kitchen foil on a baking tray then grease, for the ease of cleaning). Place the fillets of the fish, drizzle a little olive oil over them. Coat the fish with the seasoning and bake or grill for the required amount (please refer to the cooking instructions for the fish of your choice).
While the fish is cooking, make the herb mayonnaise with capers. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, chopped parsley and the rinsed baby capers. Drizzle with a little olive oil; your herb mayonnaise is ready.
For the sumac salad; work the salt and sumac into the onion slices with your hands really well in a bowl. This will soften the onions, make them more palatable and let the sumac really penetrate to the onions. Add the chopped tomatoes, parsley, juice of lemon and extra virgin olive oil into the bowl and combine well. Season with ground black pepper; your salad is ready to go.
Once the fish is baked, slice the sourdough bread (you can toast the bread if you like too.) Spread a thin layer of the herb mayonnaise over the bread and place a cooked fish fillet over it. Then place a spoonful of the sumac salad over the bread. You can add the gem lettuce and another slice of bread over the top. Or you can simply enjoy as an open fish sandwich with one slice of bread. The sumac salad is also lovely served on the gem lettuce slice.