Eating is taken very seriously in Turkey. It is inconceivable for household members to eat alone, raid the refrigerator, or eat “on the go”, while others are at home.
Do not underestimate the dish by calling it just food. The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself!” Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar (Turkish Novelist)
For those who travel to engage in culinary pursuits and for the ordinary tourist, the Turkish Cuisine is worthy of exploration. The variety of dishes that make up the cuisine, the ways they all come together in feast-like meals, and the evident intricacy of the craft offer enough material for life-long study and enjoyment. It is not easy to discern a basic element or a single dominant feature, like the Italian pasta or the French sauce. Whether in a humble home, at a famous restaurant, or at dinner in a Bey’s mansion, familiar patterns of this rich and diverse cuisine are always present. It is a rare art which satisfies the senses while reconfirming the higher order of society, community and culture.
- Mantı In almost every country, from Poland to Japan, there’s a version of meat wrapped in steamed dough. The Italians call it ravioli, the Georgians eat khinkali, and Turks tuck into plates of mantı. This version of dumplings is served with dollops of fresh, tart yogurt, doused with melted butter, and sprinkled with chopped herbs and chile flakes. It’s as tasty as it sounds.
Turks love eating. And since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they know how to extend and add variety to it. Covering a not so small amount of land, we can see some local differences in for instance the type of the cheese, olives or even the bread. Yet all regions have one or more things in common.
For starters a well prepared tea is a must. Turkish coffee has its name from this nation, but when it comes to breakfast, Turks are definitely tea people.
The most common type of bread is white bread. However, in an attempt to eat healthier, different kinds of grain breads like rye became widespread.
The rest of the ingredients are white cheese (similar to feta), old cheese (kaşar peyniri), black and/or green olives (zeytin), butter, honey, jam, an omlette or boiled eggs (yumurta), sliced tomatoes and/or cucumbers.
This dessert actually hails from Central Asia and spread from there throughout the Ottoman world. It eventually made its way to Europe, where the Viennese modified it as strudel. Today, the indisputable baklava capital is the city of Gaziantep, where the sweet stacks of fine filo pastry, drenched in milky honey and covered in pistachio nuts, are an art form.
- Nuts and fruit
That tub of Nutella on your breakfast table probably started life in an orchard in the Black Sea provinces of Giresun or Ordu — Turkey accounts for 75% of the global hazelnut crop. It also ranks among the world’s top five producers of a slew of other goodies, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: figs, cherries, strawberries, peaches, melons, watermelons, mandarin oranges, apples, chestnuts, walnuts, pistachios, olives, lentils, chickpeas, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, beets, and honey. Dig in!
Dubbed “Turkish pizza,” pide is flatbread baked in a wood-fired oven. It comes with a variety of meaty toppings: sucuk (Turkish sausage), pastrami, and minced (kıyma) or chopped (kuşbaşı) lamb meat are popular offerings. Cheese and veggies are also utilized. There are restaurants completely dedicated to this dish, and in most of them the cook will break an egg on top of your pide when they take it out the oven, which keeps everything super succulent.
Lahmacun is a simpler version, just a thin piece of dough covered with mincemeat and herbs. Other flour-based baked dishes include börek, baklava’s savory cousin; and gözleme, hand-rolled dough stuffed with cheese, spinach, or meat, then cooked over a griddle — and best consumed after a swim at the beach.
6. Maraş Dondurma
Turkish ice cream is like no other you’ve had. For a start, it has the distinctly smoky taste of natural mastic, and second, the texture is far chewier than its soft Italian cousin. The thickness comes from salep, made from the root of the Orchis mascula, and the cool treat is now so popular scientists have warned it may endanger this rare orchid.
Buying a cone of maraş dondurma from a vendor dressed in a regional Maraş costume invariably comes with a not-to-be-missed sleight-of-hand performance. Just watch.
Kebap, the cornerstone of modern Turkish cuisine, simply means “charcoal-grilled” and includes dishes as disparate as kestane kebap — roasted chestnuts sold in paper bags by street vendors on winter days.The better-known meat dishes come in different styles depending on the region of origin: the spicy Adana; the mellow Urfa; the Antep, sandwiched between thick eggplant slices; a simple dürüm wrap in thin unleavened lavaş bread. The most famous is the İskender kebap, invented by İskender Efendi of Bursa in 1867, where razor-thin slices of lamb are smothered in yogurt, tomato sauce, and butter. ,
8. Sarma and Dolma
Turkish dolma is a dish where rice and meat gets stuffed into hollowed-out peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, or dried eggplants, then slowly braised. Sarma sees the same ingredients rolled in vine or cabbage leaves. Both are a staple at the table for nearly every occasion.
9. Kestane Şekeri
Turks have very sweet teeth, and sugared chestnuts, or kestane şekeri, are just one of a plethora of candied fruits, vegetables — even nuts with their shells still on — you’ll find here. Kestane şekeri have especially long roots that stretch back to the 1300s and the former Ottoman capital of Bursa.
In Turkey, there is a rich tradition associated with liquor.Drinking alcoholic beverages in the company of family and friends at home as well as in taverns and restaurants is a part of special occasions. Similar to the Spanish tapas, “meze” is the general category of dishes that are brought in small quantities to start the meal off. These are eaten, along with wine or more likely with “rakı”, the anise-flavoured drink of Turks sometimes referred to as “lion’s milk”, until the main course is served.
The bare minimum meze for rakı are slices of honeydew melon and creamy feta cheese with freshly baked bread. Beyond this, a typical meze menu includes dried and marinated mackerel, fresh salad greens in thick yogurt sauce and garlic, plates of cold vegetable dishes cooked or fried in olive oil, fried crispy savoury pastry, deep-fried mussels and squid served in a sauce, tomato and cucumber salad, and fish eggs in a sauce. The main course that follows such a meze spread will be fish or grilled meat. When the main course is kebab, then the meze spread is different. In this case, several plates of different types of minced salad greens and tomatoes in spicy olive oil, mixed with yogurt or cheese, “humus” (chick peas mashed in tahini), bulgur and red lentil balls, “çiğ köfte” (raw meatballs made of minced meat, pounded wheat and chili powder) marinated stuffed eggplant, peppers with spices and nuts, and pickles are likely to be served.