Fruity and tart, it’s one of the defining spices of Middle Eastern cooking.
The Roo Sisters

2 Aug 2013 - 12:43 AM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2021 - 4:46 PM


With its gorgeous burgundy colour and pleasant fruity, tart character, sumac is one of the defining spices of Middle Eastern cooking. Made from the dried berry of a wild bush, it features prominently in the cuisines of Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Jordan, where it’s used as a souring agent as other cuisines would use lemon, vinegar or tamarind. The Lebanese and Turks love it not just in hot dishes or rubbed onto kebabs before grilling, but in salads or sprinkled over foods as an attractive garnish. Sumac (related to the Aramaic word “sumaqa”, meaning “dark red”) is harvested from Rhus coriaria, a shrub that likes poor soil and grows wild in the Mediterranean, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, notably Turkey and Iran. The higher the altitude of the growing area, the better the quality of the sumac berry. The small, round brick-red berries grow in dense conical clusters that are harvested just before they ripen, then sun-dried and crushed to form a purple-red powder. While whole dried berries – and sumac juice, good for salad dressings and marinades – are available in the growing regions, in Australia, sumac is usually sold as a powder.


Use sumac in ...

Fish, chargrilled chicken, slow-roasted lamb, rice or couscous dishes, casseroles, potato or fattoush salad, tabouleh, kibbeh, dressings, mixed with olive oil as a rub or marinade for grilled meats, sprinkled over grilled or roasted vegetables, raw onions, hummus and other dips. It’s a key ingredient in za’atar, along with sesame seeds and dried green herbs.

Sumac goes with ...

chicken, fish, seafood, lamb, rice, yoghurt, chickpeas, potatoes, eggplant, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, couscous, bread, pine nuts, thyme, parsley, chilli, coriander, cumin, paprika.

For more sumac recipes, head here.


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