In this article we have brought together the famous tastes of Turkish Cuisine to give you an idea what to try when you are in Turkey.
Kebab is a wide variety of meat dishes originating in Persia and later on adopted by the Middle East and Turkey. Kebab with no qualification generally refers more specifically to shish kebab (in United States) served on the skewer or (in Europe) as doner kebab (compressed meat (mixture of lamb and beef) cooked on a revolving upright skewer over coals, then thinly sliced).
However, kebab includes grilled, roasted, and stewed dishes of large or small cuts of meat, or even ground meat; it may be served on plates, in sandwiches, or in bowls. The traditional meat for kebab is lamb but sometimes beef is also used. But today it is generally the mixture of both.
Here are the most common kebaps you can find in Istanbul,
- Adana Kebab; named after Adana, the fifth largest city of Turkey, (locally called as Kiyma kebabı – minced meat kebab) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled on an open mangal (Turkish barbecue) over brazing charcoals, then served with onions, sumac, parsley, barbecued tomatoes and pide (bread).
- Urfa Kebab; is almost the same as Adana Kebab but it is the non-spicy variant of Adana Kebab
- Doner Kebab; compressed meat (usually lamb) cooked on a revolving upright skewer over coals, then thinly sliced. Doner kebab is most popularly served in pita bread or tortilla, as it is best known with salad and is a common fast food item, but is also served in a dish with rice, a salad and bread or French fries on the side.
- Shish Kebab; (Sis Kebap in Turkish in which şiş is the Turkish word for “skewer) is a dish consisting of meat threaded on a skewer and grilled. Lamb is preferred but beef also used, cubes of vegetables are often threaded on the spit as well. Typical vegetables include eggplant, tomato, bell pepper, onions, and rarely mushrooms.
Koftes are grilled or fried meatballs and served in bread or in plates with rice, salad and fried potatoes in accompany. In the simplest form, koftes consist of balls of minced or ground meat, usually beef, mixed with spices and/or onions. It is said there are about 291 types of kofte in Turkey among which Tekirdag Kofte, Inegol Kofte, Akcaabat Kofte and Uzunkopru Kofte are the most famous ones. Uzunkopru kofte is not only the best kofte in Turkey or in the world, but we can say it is the very best kofte one can eat even in the universe!
PIDE AND LAHMACUN
Pide is Turkish version of pizza. It has a canoe-shaped base topped with cheese, or minced meat and egg. Lahmacun (Arabic style pizza) on the other hand is another quickly served food, has thinner base than pide and topped with chopped lamb, tomatoe and onion.
BOREK AND GOZLEME
Borek is filled pastry and distinguished with its filling, shape and cooking method. They come in square, cigar or snail shapes and filled with cheese, spinach, minced meat or potatoes. Generally preferred in the mornings and evening tea times.
Gozleme is a savoury traditional Turkish hand made and hand rolled pastry. Fresh pastry is rolled out, filled and sealed, then cooked over a griddle. The name derives from the Turkish word göz meaning eye. Traditionally, this is done on a sac (flat or convex disc-shaped griddle made from metal). The most common gozleme varieties are with spinach and feta cheese, spinach and feta and minced meat, spinach and feta and egg, minced meat, cheese and potatoes.
Mezes are a selection of small dishes served before lunch and especially dinner. Meze is Hors D’oeuvres or cold appetizers of Turkish Cuisine. There are plenty of kinds of meze and some most commons are listed below.
- Acili Ezme; spicy tomatoe and onion paste with green herbs.
- Arnavut Cigeri; means Albanian liver is fried liver served with onion and parsley.
- Cacik; beaten yoghurt with cucumber, garlic, mint and olive oil on top.
- Dolma; is a family of stuffed vegetable dish and the best-known is the grape-leaf dolma. Also other vegetables such as cabbage leaves, chard, peppers, zuccini or eggplant (aubergine) are used. Dolma is considered a meze only if it made with olive oil and no meat. In other words, it will be a main course dish.
- Enginar; cooked artichoke.
- Haydari; thick yoghurt with garlic.
- Humus; mashed chickpeas with sesame, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.
- Kalamar Tava; fried calamari usually served with tarator (breadcrumb, walnut and garlic) sauce.
- Piyaz; white-bean salad.
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey and it is the most famous desert in Turkey and in the world.
The Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh is called Kunefe, and the bunch of wirey shreds that it is based on is called kadayif. A semi-soft cheese such as mozzarella is used in the filling. In making the kunefe, the kadayif is not rolled around the cheese; instead, cheese is put in between two layers of wire kadayif. This is cooked in small copper plates, and then served very hot, in syrup, with clotted cream (kaymak), and pistachios or walnuts.
Dough based deserts; Ekmek Kadayifi, Revani, Sekerpare, Kalburabasti, Dilberdudagi, Vezir Parmagi, Kemal Pasa, Hanim Gobegi and Tulumba. All served with syrup.
Milk-based deserts; Supangile (dense chocolate pudding), Keskul (a vanilla and nut crumble custard), Sutlac (rice pudding) and Kazandibi.
Ice Cream (called dondurma in Turkish) is very popular in Turkey and the most famous one is Maras Dondurmasi (whipped in Maras -a province in Turkey- tradition which is a bit like Italian gelato.
Turkish Coffee, locally known as Türk Kahvesi, is a special method of preparing coffee, not a kind of coffee. It has a racy identity and tradition with its aroma, foam, preparation and the way it is served. Turkish Coffee is unique by being served with its grounds. Ottomans first introduced coffee to Europe from Yemen during the siege of Vienna in the 16th century, although coffee is not grown in Turkey.
Turkish Coffee is made of high quality blend of Coffea Arabica kind of coffee. Coffee is roasted slowly preferably with coal fire and ground meticulously to the finest possible powder. The coffee is brewed in a little brass pot with a long handle on the brazier or a spirit stove, and drunk from a small porcelain cup. Turkish Coffee is brewed at extremely hot temperatures as “Sade (without sugar, also called bitter)”, “Az Sekerli (little sugar), “Orta Sekerli (medium sweat)”, “Sekerli (cloying)” and is usually served with a glass of water to freshen the mouth to better taste the coffee.
Turkish Coffee is also served with Turkish Delight known as Turk Lokumu. The thick layer of coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup is not to drink, it is left behind.
A famous Turkish proverb says “A cup of coffee is remembered for 40 years”.
Turkish Tea is grown along the Black Sea coast of Turkey since 1930s and it is the national drink and an essential social lubricant.
Tea is properly prepared in a double stacked kettles, with a larger water chamber underneath the smaller receptacle containing dry leaves to which a small quantity of water is added. After a suitable wait the tea is decanted into tiny tulip shaped glasseswhich are held by the rim in order to save the drinker’s fingertips from being burned, then diluted with more water to taste, acik is weak, demli or koyu steeped. Sugar comes as cubes on the side, milk is never added.
Here is a video from Katharine Branning, writer, librarian and art historian. The writer of the book “Yes I Would Love another Glass of Tea”.
Ayran is a refreshing cold beverage of yoghurt mixed with water and sometimes with salt. It is very popular with pide, kebab and any form of grilled meat. International fast-food companies such as McDonald’s and Burger King include ayran on their menus in Turkey.
BOZA AND SALEP
If you are travelling during autumn and winter try boza; a delicious, mildly fermantated millet drink flavoured with grape juice. By the way don’t forget to add some cinnamon on top of it!
Salep is a hot beverage found only in winter months, made from grinding the dried tubers of Orchis mascula, a phenomenally expensive wild orchid gathered in coastal areas between Antalya and Izmir. Salep also reputedly aphrodisiac, is a good safeguard against colds.
With the strength created by its centuries old history on the Anatolian soil it was born on, rakı continues to be the main drink of Turkish dinner tables and entertainment life.
Turkish Rakı, also called “Lion’s Milk” is a 90-proof unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink. Unlike Greek ouzo, it is rougher and stronger. Traditionally raki is best enjoyed with tall and narrow glasses. It is partly mixed with chilled water to get the milky colour. Rakı is generally goes with a good meal, especially well accompanied with meze. The average number of glasses for one person is 2 and 4.