Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini Sauce (Tajen Samak)

Today’s recipe is Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini Sauce (Tajen samak), another delicious treat from Sumac by Anas Atassi. It’s the first time I’ve tasted tahini with white fish but now I’ve tried it, I love it. That sumac pairs so well is less of a surprise, its citrusy notes amplify the lemon used in the sauce. Alongside these are the welcoming flavours of soft, sweet onion, nutmeg, fresh parsley, and pinenuts.

Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini sauce

Our sauce thickened much more during baking than the book photography indicates (it doesn’t seem to show the sauce at all), but the almost hummus-like texture ours baked into was a joy to eat, so I wouldn’t consider it a mistake!

Homecooked Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini sauce
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5 from 2 votes

Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini Sauce (Tajen samak)

Given that Syrian fish recipes are usually very simple, my friend Hadi, also a passionate cook, and I started experimenting. Instead of drenching the fried fish in tahini sauce, which is what we usually do in Syria, we use tahini in the preparation. It gives a totally different result, in taste and in structure. We serve the dish with rice, which, though unusual, is delicious.
Servings 4 servings
Author Anas Atassi


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil,plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 onions,
  • 4 teaspoons of sumac
  • Salt and pepper
  • 700 g 1 lb 9 oz of white fish fillets

For the sauce

  • 150 ml 5 fl oz of tahini
  • Juice of 1–2 organic lemons, as desired
  • 170 ml ⅔ cup of water
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, as desired, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

To serve

  • 1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful of pine nuts, toasted
  • Sumac
  • Organic lemon, in slices


  • Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Fry the onion rings for 3–5 minutes in the oil until they are soft. Season with 2 teaspoons of sumac, salt and pepper.
  • Spread the fried onion over the bottom of an ovenproof dish and set the fish on top of the bed of onions. Drizzle some olive oil over the fish and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sumac, salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven.
  • While the fish is baking, make the sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl, adjusting the amount of lemon juice and garlic to your preference. Warm the sauce in a pan on medium heat, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat.
  • Remove the fish from the oven, pour the sauce over the fish until completely covered, and then bake for another 10–15 minutes, until cooked thoroughly.
  • Serve with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, sumac and lemon slices.

Find out more about the book in our full review of Sumac: Recipes and stories from Syria.

Homecooked Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini sauce Homecooked Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini sauce

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This recipe is extracted from Sumac by Anas Atassi and republished with permission from Murdoch Books. Food photography: Jeroen van der Spek. Home cooked recipe photography, Kavita Favelle.

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8 Comments to "Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini Sauce (Tajen Samak)"

  1. Elaine Knight-Roberts

    Really loved this dish, thank you for sharing.

    I will be making this sauce again to go with a lovely rice and quinoa salad from Plenty and some fish, I think it’ll be a perfect pairing.

  2. Phillipine Fishes

    Tried the Syrian Fish with Sumac Tahini Sauce recipe from your post. First time using tahini with white fish and it was a hit. The sumac really brings out the lemon flavor. Thanks for the great idea!

  3. Andrew Jackson

    Do you cook the fish fillets whole? Can you skip the lemon slices on top?


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