Posted on 11/09/2020
A trip to Turkey begins with the discovery of its incredible historical and architectural wonders, revealing an ancient and glorious past. It is a country of a thousand faces located somewhere special between Europe and Asia. But to understand and appreciate a culture that is different from yours, the best way is to discover its culinary specialties, and in Turkey the cuisine is pretty impressive!
Like all the great cuisines of the world, Turkish cuisine is the result of a fusion betweenTurkish and Ottoman cuisines, but also Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Balkan. When Turkish people arrived in Anatolia in the 11th century, they introduced their own habits, such as stuffing pasta and all kinds of vegetables, skewering meat on skewers, using dairy products as basic products, as well as cultivating wheat for making bread. They also discovered new ingredients and integrated them into Turkish cuisine, such as rice, fruits and vegetables that are typical of the region. This led to the creation of regional recipes, influenced by various geographical areas in Turkey.
Wheat flour is one of the most important ingredients in Turkish cuisine. Besides ekmek (ordinary white bread), pide (focaccia), simit (sesame seed doughnut) which are consumed daily, there are other dishes, such as manti (a small ravioli filled with a special mixture of meat, garlic yogurt and butter melted with paprika) and a large variety of börek (very thin puff pastry, baked or fried, stuffed with cheese or meat).
The meze are a kind of small appetizer that are generally consumed with alcohol. From the most common ones such as sliced melon with creamy feta cheese and warm bread, to dried and marinated mackerel, fried mussels and squids served with sauce, but also humus (a mix of chickpea, tahini and chopped sesame), meatballs of red and bulgur lentils, stuffed marinated eggplants, peppers with spices and dried fruit and pickles.
Meat is definitely one of the main ingredients for people. Kebab is the most famous internationally, but there are many variations and many cooking methods. The most common ones are sis kebap (grilled meat cubes) and döner kebap (layers of minced meat and leg of lamb placed on a spit that turns slowly and is then finely chopped). Another typical dish is the köfte (meatballs seasoned with spices, eggs, and grated onions, which can be grilled, fried, baked or boiled).
Turkey is surrounded by four seas (the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea), so there are a lot of fish specialities, such as sardines with garlic and red onions, the bluefish with lettuce, the turbot with red lettuce, the palamito boiled with celery, the grilled mackerel stuffed with chopped onions and, in summer, smaller fishes cooked with tomato and green peppers. There are many recipes including hamsi (anchovies), which is the king of fishes for the Turks (in this picture it is in an omelette).
Like cereals, seasonal vegetables are an essential in Turkish cuisine, especially eggplants, courgettes and green peppers. The simplest preparation is the zeytinyagl (sautéed in olive oil), but dolmas are also very common (stuffed with mixed meat or rice as in the picture). The typical summer dish, that you eat with pilaf rice, is the karnyark - eggplants cut into strips, slightly hollowed and stuffed with tomato sauce and minced meat.
At the end of the meal, Turkish people usually eat fresh fruits. But other typical desserts are based on milk such as muhallebi (puddings prepared only with starch and rice flour), based on cereals such as bakery pastry, made of fried dough or breadcrumbs. The lokma are leavened and fried morsels that are then soaked in syrup, helva is a dough of breadcrumbs or semolina flour mixed with pine nuts and butter, and ekmek kadayf is a special bread baked in syrup, along with grated walnuts and served with a thick cream.
The Turk Kahvesi (which is Turkish coffee and is included in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list) and the Cay ( very strong Turkish tea, served in characteristic tulip-shaped glasses) are part of Turkish everyday life. In addition to these, you can try the boza (a very dense fermented drink made from wheat grains and served with a little cinnamon and roasted chickpeas), the sherbet (which is made from sugar, honey, rose, herbs and fresh fruit, boiled and diluted with water) and the sahlep (a hot drink prepared with milk and flavoured with wild orchid bulbs). For wine lovers, Turkey has got some extensive vineyards, where native grapes are grown and fermented. But the most popular liqueur is raki - a distillate of marc, flavoured with aniseed seeds.