Turkish traditional food
Turkey offers the traveler an opportunity to try the exotic after a familiar trip to Europe. The friendly, courteous Turkish people have been hosting visitors in one form or another for centuries. “Go for the history, but stay for the food,” is often said.
Turkey is a unique republic located on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. While most of her citizens are Islamic, the government of Turkey is both democratic and secular. Turkey has always been the me eeting point for European and Middle Eastern neighbors, becoming an important link between east and west. Consequently, her customs and cuisine are modern, and at the same time historic. Turkey has often been called the crossroads of Europe. Over the centuries the Hittites, Seljuks, Persians, Greeks and Romans have ruled the area.
As a traveler in Turkey, or a cook here at home, recipes are easily identifiable and not difficult to prepare. The beauty of Turkish cooking is in its af ffordability, use of fresh ingredients, and ease of basic cooking techniques. Dishes are simply presented, not hidden under sauces, or excessive presentations. Classic recipes from centuries of palace and home cooking are well known to all home cooks. The most co
Turkish cuisine also has many specialties and variations: there are at least forty ways to prepare eggplant alone. Unique are the strings of dried, hollowed out eggplant. It is reconstituted and stuffed with rice in winter. Honeys, preserves, nut mixtures, and cheeses round out a menu.
The first meal of the day is breakfast. A typical Turkish breakfast is fresh tomatoes, white cheese, black olives, bread wi ith honey and preserves, and sometimes an egg.
Lunch often will include a rice or bulgar pilaf dish, lamb or chicken baked with peppers and eggplant, and fresh fish grilled with lemon. A popular lamb cut is prizolla. These are extra thin cut lamb chops which are seasoned with sumac, thyme, and quickly grilled. Favorites include sucuk, a spicy sausage, and pastirma, a sun dried cumin-fenugreek coated preserved beef. It is sliced thin much like pastrami. For lunch or dinner, so
Dinners will most commonly start with mezeler, (singular, mezze) or appetizers. Mezeler are Turkish specialties, showing off the originality and skill of a restaurant. Roasted pureed eggplant, fine chopped salads, miniature filled pasta called “manti,” pepper and turnip pickles, mackerel stuffed with pilaf, sardines rolled in grape leaves, and “kofte”, spiced lamb meatballs, all tantalize the diner.
One unique specialty of Turkish cuisine is the “zeytinagli” or olive oil course. Foods such as peppers or tomatoes are prepared with olive oil. These are typically served at room temperature.
Dessert is commonly melon and fresh fruit. Desserts made with filo dough, puddings of rose water and saffron, are favored. Another favorite is dried apricots drenched in syrup, stuffed with buffalo milk cheese and garnished with pistachio nuts. All sweets are usually served with Turkish coffee. Turks are credited with the spread of coffee throughout their empire and later Europe.
During the day the popular drink is tea, served in crystal tulip shaped glasses. Chai houses are popular am
In restaurants, the waiter will help the traveler select a meal, with breads and olives always available. Put your dinner into the hands of the restaurant and you will not be disappointed. Regional specialties abound, ask for them. In southern Turkey, Adana is famous for “Adana kebab” a spiced minced meat. Istanbul is known for “midye” or pilaf stuffed mussel meze. The Aegean region near Izmir, is known for its figs, fish, and peaches. In some restaurants, lemon cologne is available after dining to pour over hands as a refreshing cleanser.
Unique specialties of Turkish cuisine make souvenirs from a trip. “Lokum,” a gelled sweet often mixed with hazelnuts or pistachios, is cut into cubes and rolled in powdered sugar. In the United States it is commonly called Turkish delight. Rose, banana, and eggplant liqueur are savored. Sweet hot re
Kebabs are dishes of plain or marinated meat either stewed or grilled. Almost every district of Anatolia has its own kebap specialty. Lamb is the basic meat of Turkish kitchen. Pieces of lamb threaded on a skewer and grilled over charcoal form the famous “Sis kebab”, now known in many countries of the world. “Doner kebab” is another famous Turkish dish, being a roll of lamb on a vertical skewer turning parallel to a hot grill. You should also try “Alanazik”, “Sac kavurma”, “Tandir” and different types of “Kofte” as typical meat dishes.
The aubergine is used in a wide variety of dishes from “karniyarik” and “hünkarbegendi”, to “patlican salatasi” (eggplant salad) and “patlican dolmasi” (stuffed eggplants). It can be cooked with onions, garlic and tomatoes and served cold as “imam bayildi”.
A delicious Turkish specialty is “pilav”, a rice dish which is difficult for the inexperienced cook to prepare. In the Black Sea region of Turkey they make a great dish with rice and small fish called “Hamsili pilav”. Another interesting dish from the same region is “Miroloto”.
“Börek” are pies of flaky pastry stuffed with meat, cheese or potatoes. The delicious Turkish natural yoghurt, “yogurt”, is justifiably renowned. A typical appetizer prepared with yogurt is “Cacik”. And, of course, don’t forget to try “Manti”, with loads of yogurt.
Turkish sweets are famous throughout the world and many of these have milk as the basic ingredient such a such as “sütlac”, “tavuk gögsü”, “kazandibi”, “helva”, “asure”, but the best-known are “baklava” and “kadayif” pastries, favorites of young and old alike.
Among the national drinks, Turkish coffee, ayran, shira, sahlep and boza should be mentioned. Turkish coffee comes thick and dark in a small cup and may be served without sugar, with a little sugar or with a lot of sugar. Either way, it is truly delicious. If you like alcohol you can try “Raki” made of anice, it is called as “lions drink” because you must be strong as a lion to drink it.
Soups are coming in a wide variety. These may be light, or rich and substantial. They are generally based on meat stock and served at the start of the meal. Lentil soup is the most common and best loved variety, but there are other preferred soups such as yayla, tarhana, asiran and guli soups.
Some other typical Turkish dishes are:
Generally made of rice, but also of bulgur (cracked wheat) and sehriye (vermicelli), pilaf (pilav) is one of the mainstays of the Turkish table. The rice should not be sticky but separate into individual grains. The pilaf may include aubergines, chick peas, beans or peas. Although pilaf is traditionally a course in its own right, in recent years it has appeared as a garnish with meat and chicken dishes at many restaurants.
Thinly rolled pastry, often the paper thin variety known as yufka, is wrapped around various savory fillings or arranged in layers . The myriad types of börek are unmatched delicacies when cooked to perfection. Boreks can be fried, baked, cooked on a griddle or boiled. Traditionally it was said that no girl should marry until she had mastered the art of börek making. Preferred fillings are cheese, minced meat, spinach and potatoes. In the form of rolls filled with cheese or minced meat mixtures and fried, böreks are known as “Sigara (cigarette) boregi”. Böreks should be light and crisp, without a trace of excess oil.
Slices of marinated lamb on a tall vertical spit and grilled as it slowly turns are delicious. The cooked parts of the cone of meat are cut in very thin slices by a huge sword-like knife, and arranged on a plate with Ace or flat pide (pitta) bread. This dish is the most formidable obstacle to the victory of the hamburger in the fast food market. Doner kebap in rolls with slices of pickle and chips is the most common stand-up lunch for city office workers.
A local variation of Doner Kebap would be Cag Kebabi from Erzurum. It is made with slices of lamb threaded on a spit, with 10 percent minced beef mixed with milk, chopped onion, black pepper and flaked chili pepper spread between each slice to hold them together. The surface is covered tightly with wood ash, and then the kebab is roasted horizontally over a wood fire. As the outer surface browns, the cook takes a metal skewer and threads it through the cooked surface, slices off the portion with a long döner knife, and serves it with thin lavas bread.
The diverse köftes of all shapes and sizes are a culinary world of their own. Finely minced meat mixed with spices, onions and other ingredients is shaped by hand, and grilled, fried, boiled or baked. Koftes are named according to the cooking method, ingredients or shape. Plump oval köfte dipped in egg and fried have the evocative name of “Ladies Thighs” (kadin budu). Some köftes are cooked in a sauce as in the case of the delicious “Izmir köfte”, the köftes are first grilled and then cooked with green peppers, potato slices and tomatoes in their own gravy. An interesting dish called “Hamsi köfte” comes from the Black Sea region of Turkey.
Cacik (Cucumber – Yogurt Salad)
Ingredients Measure Amount
Cucumbers 3 medium size 400 grams
Dill 3-4 sprigs 10 grams
Yogurt 3 ½ cups 770 grams
Salt 2 teaspoons 12 grams
Water 1 ¼ cups 250 grams
Olive oil 2 tablespoons 20 grams
Garlic 3 cloves 9 grams
Wash, peel and coarsly grate the cucumbers. Wash and weed out the dill and chop finely. Whisk the yogurt, add salt, water, garlic and the cucumbers and mix well. Pour the mixture into individual dishes and sprinkle with olive oil and dill.
It is a frequently served dish in every region. In winter months it can be prepared with lettuce in spring with romaine lettuce, pennyroyal and parslane. It is served at lunch and dinner as a third course particularly after rice or börek (pastry).
Cold Stuffed Green Peppers (Biber Dolmasi)
Ingredients Measure Amount
Onion 6 large 600 gr.
Olive Oil ¾ cup 150 gr.
Pine nuts 2 table spoons 20 gr.
Rice 1/3 cup 240 gr.
Tomato 3 small 250 gr.
Salt 3 desert spoons 18 gr.
Sugar 2 desert spoons 8 gr.
Water (hot) ¼ cup 500 gr.
Currants 2 table spoons 20 gr.
Green Peppers 12 medium 850 gr.
Parsley 1 small bunch 40 gr.
Dill 1 small bunch 30 gr.
Fresh Mints 10-15 leaves 10 gr.
Cinnamon 1 desert spoon 2 gr.
Black Pepper ¾ desert spoon 1.5 gr.
Allspice ¾ desert spoon 1.5 gr.
Lemon juice 2 table spoons 20 gr.
Peel and finely chop the onions, place in a sauce pan together with the oil and the nuts, cover and put on low heat to get tender, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and stir for a few minutes to get the nuts slightly browned. Wash the rice and drain, add to the pan and stir a couple of times. Wash the tomatoes, set aside one and grate the others into the pan.
Add 2 desert spoons of salt, sugar and 1 cup of water, stir, sprinkle the currants and cook for 10 – 15 minutes first on medium and then low heat until the juices are reduced. Wash the peppers, parsley and dill, push open the stalk ends of the peppers and clean out the seeds. Sprinkle the remaining salt to the insides. Sort the parsley and dill, chop finely and add to the rice together with the mint and the spices. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Quarter the remaining tomato and slice half cm. thick. Fill the peppers with the prepared stuffing and cover the tops with tomato slices and place in a shallow pan. Cover them with a heath resistant plate. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of hot water and cook for approximately 50 minutes.
Mostly favored in the Western regions. During meals it is served as a second course after a meat course. Also popular as an appetizer or picnic food.
While it has come to be associated with kebap, baklava, lokum and rakı there is a rich and variegated tradition of soups, olive oil dishes, rice pilafs, stuffed vegetables, pastries, puddings and syrupy desserts underlying these popular dishes. It offers unique tastes in spicy and tart appetizers, pickles, fruit preserves, compote, sherbet, boza (a thick beverage made of barley) and coffee.
The diversity of Turkish cuisine reflects the cultures of the populations living in regions highly dissimilar in geography and climate. This has led to an abundance of ingredients and cooking styles. The Southeast and the East are known for the dishes based on cracked wheat and meat with hot spices, the Aegean, for olive oil dishes enhanced with local herbs, the Black Sea region, for varieties of anchovy and collard, and Istanbul is a world unto itself with, among others, eggplant dishes which come in no less then 41 sorts.
The latest trend in İstanbul restaurants is the fast food version of the traditional simit (kind of bagel) and börek (pastry).
Stuffed vegetables and wraps
They constitute a unique aspect of Turkish cuisine. The classical wrap is meat or rice wrapped in vine, cabbage or collard leaves although lettuce, nut, chestnut, cherry and even violet leaves are sometimes used. There are about 15 varieties of vegetables stuffed with meat today.
There is a rich variety including gyros type dishes, grills, fried meats, kebaps, stews, meat cooked in a crock or pan. There are also boiled meats, meat balls, vegetables stuffed with meat and meat dishes cooked with fruits.
Olive oil dishes
They are an integral part of lunch and dinner especially in the summer. They can be served warm or cold. Olive (or vegetable) oil can be used to fry eggplants, peppers and zucchini or cook them in an onion and tomato sauce and letting them simmer.
The food is less heavy than it once was but still consists of a long menu including soup, a meat dish, choice of pastry, pilaf or pasta, olive oil dish, salad and dessert. The tradition of inviting friends and relatives to elaborate dinners to break the fast continues. Food is accompanied by the pides which can be bought hot at the neighborhood bakery on Ramadan afternoons.
It is the cuisine of an imperial city featuring a wide variety of ingredients and cooking styles. It includes dishes and ideas from the cuisine of Jews, Greeks and Armenians who were an integral part of Ottoman society.