Turkish Cuisine – A Paradise For Foodies

Turkish cuisine is renowned for its flavour and most certainly not limited to the widely known “Doner Kebab”. With it’s great diversity of flora & fauna, each region boasts its own specialities, in the west dishes are predominantly influenced by olive oil, seafood & vegetables while further south and east they become meatier & spicy. Due to centuries of regional Ottoman Empire domination and proximity to neighboring countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Iran & Armenia), Turkish Cuisine shares a number of common wellknown dishes such as dolmas (stuffed peppers), sarma (stuffed vine leaves), boreks (savory pastries), kebabs (grilled meats), manti (Turkish style ravioli), hummus, etc.

Regional Differences

  • Western and Turkish Aegean Cuisine : In this region seafood and vegetable dishes dominate. Main dishes to try are dolmas, an amazing variety of meze (appetizers) and seafood. Be sure to treat yourself, at a seaside restaurant in Kusadasi, to a meal of mezes, fresh fish and maybe a raki or two (the national Turkish drink which locals usually have together with a seafood meal) after a day in the sun sightseeing Ephesus.
  • Black Sea Cruise : Heavily influenced by seafood, Balkan and Slavic cuisines.Dishes to try in this region are pides (Turkish style pizza), fish (such has Hamsi), dry beans (kuru fasulye) and melted cheeses.
  • Anatolian and South East Turkey Cuisine : Predominantly grilled meat dishes, mezzes & spices.
  • Pides, kebabs and baklava are common throughout the whole of Turkey.

Tempting Dishes to Definitely Try during your Travels in Turkey

Soup : There are many varieties on offer, from simple lentil or tomato, to brain, tongue, tripe, as well as varieties made from yoghurt. Turk’s love their soup! The most popular Turkish soups you can try during your visit are : Mercimek Çorbası (Lentil Soup) – İşkembe Çorbası (Tribe Soup) – Ezo Gelin Çorbası (Turkish Red Lentil Soup) – Paça Çorbası (Trotter Soup) – Yayla Soup (Yoghurt Soup) – Lahana Çorbası (Cabbage Soup).

Cacık: A refreshing mixture of shredded or cubed cucumber in diluted yoghurt with garlic and mint.

Borek: Flaky delicious pastry in a wide variety of shapes, layers and fillings. The most popular fillings are spinach & cheese, cheese along, minced meat, potato. It is either baked as a whole in a large baking tray and then sliced into pieces or shaped & baked as small individual pieces.

Yaprak Sarma: Vine leaves with a filling of rice, onion and spices like mint, black pepper, dill, currents, etc. There is a vegetarian version as well as a non-vegetarian version including ground meat.

Dolma: Fresh or dried eggplants, peppers, tomatoes or zucchinis are stuffed with a mixture of rice and onion with various spices. Again either vegetarian or with the addition of mince.

Kurufasulye: Dried beans (haricot beans), cooked in a tomato sauce (with or without meat – usually without) and served with a side of plain rice & fresh bread.

Karnıyarık: Fried (or oven backed) eggplants with a ground (minced) meat, onion, parsley, garlic and tomato filling. Delicious!

Kizartma: Fried eggplants & green peppers, generally also with fried chips, are smothered in tomato sauce and yoğurt. A great treat all year round but most especially during summer when eggplants, peppers & tomatoes are in season and at their most tasty.

Lahmacun: A very thin pizza like dish, with a topping of finely minced meat and onions with spices. It is usually served with a side of freshly sliced tomatoes, lettuce, parsley or rocket which most people tend to then roll together into something similar to a taco. A popular “fast food” dish of Turkey.

Mantı: A type of “ravioli”, consisting of dough and a filling of ground beef or lamb, onion, salt and pepper. This is then smothered in fresh yoğurt, with or without addition of garlic.

Pilav: There is a great variety of pilaf in Turkish cuisine, yet the easiest one to make is the most favorite and available one: Sade Pilav (plain rice cooked in water with butter/vegetable oil and noodle like small pasta pieces – şehriye). Varieties are rice cooked with eggplants, chickpeas, meat or liver slices; and of course spices like cinnamon, pepper, thyme, cumin and even almonds.

Köfte: Meatballs in all shapes and sizes, according to the town/regional speciality. The basics are ground beef or lamb mixed with minced onions and spices. The most common is “Izgara Köfte”, where the meat mixture is grilled and served with grilled peppers, chopped parsley & accompanied with rice or bread on the side. Meatballs are also mixed in with other regional dishes, in a tomato sauce alone or with vegetables and chickpeas. Kofte is an important part of the household diet.

Kebaps: This is the common name for a dish where meat (lamb, beef or chicken) is cooked on or around a skewer over a charcoal fire. Iskender kebab is one of the most famous varieties, in which long strips of lamb are layered over pita bread and covered in a tasty tomato sauce & melted butter, served with a healthy dolup of yoghurt on the side. A personal favorite.

Döner: Pieces of seasoned meat (beef or chicken), skewered on a spit and grilled vertically, which are then thinly sliced and accompanied with lettuce, tomatoes & onions all wrapped together in pita bread or freshly baked Turkish bread.

A Sweet Treat

Kunefe: A special dessert, served warm to hot, made with very fine “angel hair like” noodles, stuffed with cheese and pistacho nuts, soaked in a sugar-based syrup. You definitely have to give it a try!

Baklava: The most famous of all Turkish desserts. Layer upon layer of incredibly thin filo pastry stuffed with nuts and soaked in sweet syrup.

Halva: There are two types of Halva in Turkey. The first is a dessert type made with a starch base (flour or semolina), sugar and butter along with other ingredients like nuts and typically served warm to hot. The second type is the confectionary type, made with tahini and sugar and prepared in blocks which are then sliced or cubed to serve. It has a soft, crumbly, slightly crystalline texture. It often has additional ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits or cocoa inside.

Firinda Sutlac: A rice pudding traditionally baked in small clay pots, served cold with sprinkling of cinnamon on top

Tavuk Gogsu: This dessert has its origin in the Ottoman kitchen. Chicken breast is finely ground into a paste and then mixed with milk & sugar. Once set a find sprinkling of ground cinnamon is added. It has a slightly chewy consistency and a definitely a surprise for all those tasting it for the first time.

Stomach growling & lips smacking? Then it’s time to head over and escort your taste buds on a Turkish Adventure !

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