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Grilled Fish on Sourdough Bread with Sumac Salad – Balik Ekmek

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.

Fishing with a view; fishermen by the edge of the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara, overlooking the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

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, Turkey has 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.


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.

 Baked fish with sumac piyaz and capers with mayo on bread 026 with OTTBaked fish with herb mayonnaise and sumac salad over sourdough bread

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, mackerel, 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.

This delicious fish recipe along with over 90 scrumptious and healthy Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My HomelandSigned copies are available to order at this link for a limited period, if you’d like a copy for yourself or gift to a foodie.

Grilled Fish on Sourdough Bread with Herb Mayonnaise, served with Sumac, red Onion and Tomato salad; “Balik Ekmek ” with a twist

 Serves 4   

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 (mackerel, haddock fillets work well)

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).

Capers and parsley work well with mayonnaise

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.

Tangy sumac flavors red onions, tomatoes and parsley beautifully and the salad is excellent with the grilled fish.

Tangy sumac flavors red onions, tomatoes and parsley beautifully; this salad is excellent with the grilled meat and fish.

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.

Piyaz; lovely, refreshing salad with red onions, tomatoes, parsley with sumac and olive oil dressing

Piyaz; lovely, refreshing salad with red onions, tomatoes, parsley with sumac and olive oil dressing

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.

Balik ekmek; Open fish sandwich with herb mayonnaise and sumac, red onion and tomato salad

Balik ekmek; Open fish sandwich with herb mayonnaise and sumac, red onion and tomato salad

Afiyet Olsun!


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20 Responses to Grilled Fish on Sourdough Bread with Sumac Salad – Balik Ekmek

  1. Peter April 30, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Ozlem, thank you for sharing a bit about Istanbul, your fish recipe with sumac. Sumac is another wonderful ingredient that adds a tart flavour to a dish and colour. Thank you as well for your kind mention!

    • Ozlem April 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Kalimeras Peter,

      You are very welcome, your calamari with the lemon zest is a must try. I very much enjoy sumac too, a wonderful alternative to lemon to add a bit of tartness to the dishes, as well as color.

  2. Alida April 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    My goodness all of this is just so good! I love your photography and the food is so mouthwatering. I particularly like the fish at the market, a fiest for the eyes! X

    • Ozlem April 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

      Ciao Alida,

      I am glad you enjoyed the post – I love the fish markets at home too!

  3. joyce April 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    these look sooooo good!!! i can’t get fish like this but i can use something else. i love sumac on so many things!

    • Ozlem May 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Thanks Joyce, I love sumac too, goes so well with fish and on salads. Any white fish, or even shellfish or calamari may work, hope you can try sometime.

  4. CuisinedeProvence May 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Özlem, this is delicious beyond words – you have me salivating….

    • Ozlem May 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      Hello Barbara,
      How I wished we were closer to share this bite!!: )

  5. Peri May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Delicious mouthwatering food and pictures, Ozlem! Fish on bread with red onion sumac salad to top it, can’t wait to try this out! A simple way to bring fish to the dinner table and have everyone asking for seconds:) Yummy! Much love, Peri.

    • Ozlem May 2, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Thank you so much Peri, sumac is one of my favourite spices – being a huge lemon fan, it’s not difficult to guess I reckon : )- and it is certainly the star of this dish. So glad you enjoyed the photos! xxx Ozlem

  6. Phil in the Kitchen May 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Lovely combination of flavours. Certainly seems to beat a fish finger sandwich. Love that idea of the sumac on the salad. Sumac adds such a delicious lift to the flavours of so many dishes.

    • Ozlem May 2, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Thanks Phil, sumac is certainly the star of this dish; I very much love its refreshing, tangy flavor too.

  7. avşa March 13, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Good talk plus great food equals to great time

    Giriti is a must try when you visit Istanbul. If you are looking for a great dinner with friends you’l surely enjoy your time here.

    • Ozlem Warren March 13, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      I agree with you; love Giritli, their mezzes, fish and ambiance is wonderful – thank you for stopping by!

  8. Katy December 1, 2018 at 8:58 am #

    Very yummy recipe! thank you

  9. Greg February 10, 2019 at 10:27 pm #

    Hi, I have been to Turkey but only a couple of tourist resorts, not Istanbul unfortunately.

    However, in Leeds Kirkgare Market there is an excellent food stand which sells mackerel sandwiches, they are just lovely. I wanted to find a recipe so thanks very much.

    • Ozlem Warren February 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm #

      Merhaba Greg, many thanks for your kind note; Balik Ekmek, our traditional fish sandwich is one of the most loved street foods at home; so glad you are keen to recreate the recipe at home, hope you enjoy it – Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem

  10. Ozlem Warren September 23, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    thanks for sharing!


  1. Recreate International Street Food at Home - September 21, 2015

    […] Most Americans are unaware, but there’s a strong fishing culture in Turkey, and on the docks of Istanbul, fishermen often grill up some of their catch right on their boats. Balik Ekmek is a popular Turkish sandwich that is made from white fish, and it’s surprisingly simple to recreate at home. Find the recipe here. […]

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    […] of mezzes; Warm hummus with Turkish dried beef sausages or pastrami (dried cured beef) on top,  Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes, parsley with a sumac dressing , Gavurdagi Salata of tomatoes, onions and walnuts with pomegranate dressing and many more. They are […]

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