• Sumac fish fritters (Sarina Kamini)Source: Sarina Kamini

Cassia sticks are stronger and more pungent than cinnamon quills and work wonderfully paired with sumac in this fritter recipe.






Skill level

Average: 2.4 (13 votes)

Acidic spice makes the eyes pop and the buds come to life. Think tamarind, pomegranate molasses and dessert lime.  

But as delicious as that zing is, it’s also distracting. Which is why I’m so in love with sumac.

Sumac is gentle, salted, shadowed acidity. As a ground dried berry she offers up softer acidic characteristics that engage the mouth, but also leave room for other flavours to shine through. Though native to Middle Eastern cuisine, she pairs beautifully with curry leaf and gently fragrant fish curries. As a rule, sumac makes anything with salt and pepper better from rump steak to chargrilled zucchini. 

When it comes to fish, sumac is a perfect match. Lemon and lime can strip back subtle flavours of the sea. Sumac does the opposite - she lifts and helps the subtle notes of spice applied to spice shine through. 

With these fish fritters, I use sumac in the cook. You can use her to finish, too.

Sumac top tips 

• Sumac has a degree of recessed salt flavour, so think about this when considering salt quantities in any dish you use her - she’ll increase the appearance of sodium.

• To increase the acidity of sumac, pair her with amchur in any dish requiring more acidity.

• Adding sumac closer to the end of the cook will help to retain its intensity.


  • 250 g semi-firm, white-fleshed fish
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • ½ tsp ground red chilli
  • 2 cassia sticks
  • ½ tsp fine white salt
  • ⅓ tsp kala namak (see Note)
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 cm fresh grated turmeric
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil (see Note)
  • ½ small white onion, diced
  • ½ bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Mustard oil for frying 

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


1. Put the fish in a pot with milk, water, ground fenugreek, ½ tsp fine white salt, ground and dried red chilli and cassia sticks in a pot and poach gently over medium heat for around 8 minutes, until just slightly undercooked.

2. Remove fish from heat and drain of liquids.

3. In a separate bowl, place the now poached fish with the rest of the spice, fresh and dried, the chopped onion, the tablespoon of mustard oil, and the egg. 

4. Add rice flour a little at a time until the mix forms a firm fritter, around the size of a golf ball. Roll the fritters in the remaining rice flour until lightly coated.

5. On the stove, heat a wok, kadai or deep frying pan with a mix of two-thirds vegetable oil with one-third mustard oil.

6. When hot, fry the fritters in small batches, turning with a slotted spoon so they cook evenly. Drain on paper towel once removed from the oil

7. Serve with raita, tzatziki or even thick natural yoghurt. Sprinkle all options with sumac and garnish with chopped, fresh green chillies.



• Kala namak is a fine Indian black salt, but you can omit this if you can’t find it. 

• Mustard oil can be purchased from most Asian grocers and imparts a unique flavour to the fritters.


'Not just curry' is a fortnightly recipe column on SBS Food lead by spice lover, Sarina Kamini. It shares the flavourful insights and potential behind a different spice that may be tucked away in your pantries and is celebrated with a brand-new recipe. Find out more here.

Photography, styling and food preparation by Sarina Kamini.