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Turkish food culture

Turkish food culture
Due to its geographical location and history, Turkey is a meeting point for different food cultures, making food tasting in Turkey an unforgettable experience. That’s why a question like “What’s a typical Turkish dish?” can be hard to answer. Let’s start with an overview of Turkey’s different types of cuisine.

It’s also called Ottoman cuisine or Palace cuisine, one of the richest in the world.
It’s mainly influenced by Balkan, Anatolian, Syrian, and Caucasian cuisines. Sadly, most recipes didn’t survive because the cooks kept them secret. In other words, we know today only a tiny portion of what was available in the past. There is no doubt that meat and desserts dominated the menu. Ottoman cuisine didn’t use tomatoes or tomato marks because starters weren’t typical, and tomatoes weren’t introduced until much later. Here are some impressive things you can still find in restaurants:

  • Eggs with onions and pastirma – typical Turkish bacon), Mahmudiye (chicken casserole flavored with almonds, apricots, raisins, honey, cinnamon, and lemon juice), Mutancana (lamb stew with apricots, shallots, red grapes, honey, and almonds).
  • Kavun dolması (stuffed melon made of lamb, rice, spices, almonds, pistachios, and currants), Dügün çorbası (a stew made of beef chuck, herbs, and yogurt). Akike (mutton casserole with tail fat, yogurt, cinnamon, spices, and mastic) and Süt Kebabı (lamb and mutton in milk).
  • Beyran(long-cooked lamb meat seasoned with spices). Mıhlama is minced meat cooked in eggs and herbs for a long time. Kırma Tavuk Kebabı (special chicken kebab with herbs), Fodula (stuffed beef bread).

Ottoman cuisine always had desserts. A festive event in the 16th Century had 53 kinds of sweets for the guests. Some of the most popular desserts are:

  • It’s called keşkül-ü kara (a milk pudding with almonds). The revani (semolina cake with orange flower water or rose water). There’s Zerde (pudding with saffron and rose water) and Tavukgöğsü (chicken breast pudding). Sütlaç (rice pudding), Kazandibi (burned milk pudding), Saray helvası (dry, slightly sweet halva with pistachios). Kadayıf (kadayif dough with syrup and pistachios). Vezir parmağı (semolina, milk, beaten, caster sugar, almond essence, butter, rose water, water, and lemon juice). Hanım Göbeği (fried semolina balls with lemon syrup).

Turkish food culture

Izmir and the Aegean Coast: The Aegean coast and Izmir cuisine have a lot in common.
Most names can be found in both languages, like dolmadakia (GR) – dolma (TR), keftedes (GR) – Köfte (TR), moussaka (GR) – Musakka (TR), etc., and they are very similar.

  • Typical for Aegean cuisine is to start with various cold dishes called Meze. These are small dishes with yogurt, fish, eggplant, cauliflower, and more. In a typical restaurant, you wouldn’t choose your Meze from a menu. Either the waiter would bring a big tray with a variety of mezes to your table, which you can directly pick, or you would go to the glass fridge with the waiter and tell him there.

Aegean cuisine also emphasizes the importance of vegetables in preparing its dishes. You can eat vegetables cooked in olive oil, cold or warm.

  • Aegean fish is another essential food. There’s a lot of grilled fish. Typically, you pick your fish from the glass fridge with the waiter, not from the card. Then he’d weigh it, tell you how to prepare it, and tell you the price.

Black Sea area: Although Black Sea cuisine doesn’t just have fish, anchovies are typical.

  • Hamsili pilav (anchovy rice), Hamsili ekmek (anchovy bread), Hamsi tava (anchovy straight from the pan), Hamsi bugulama (anchovy stew), Hamsi koftesi (kofte but with anchovy), and Hamsi tatlisi (anchovy dessert with dough, oranges, pistachios, syrup).

Gaziantep is the heart of Turkish cuisine. Gaziantep is located in the southeast of Turkey and can be reached by plane in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Gourmets love its unique cuisine influenced by the area’s history and its unique cuisine. Here’s where you can only miss a few dishes in Turkish restaurants come from. As a result of its gastronomical importance, Gaziantep was added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in 2004.

You’ll find many fusion restaurants in Istanbul and Izmir that combine different food cultures.

Turkish street food
Turkey also has a great street food culture, primarily Doner – Doner is known worldwide. When you’re hungry, you can easily find a “donerci” in Turkey.

  • Izmir’s street food is kumru. This sandwich has spicy sausages, pickles, tomatoes, and grilled cheese.
  • Boyoz – Another typical street food in Izmir. Traditionally, boyoz is a pastry.
  • Kumpir – These are buttery, cheesy baked potatoes
  • Istanbul’s famous street food, Balik-Ekmek. The name Balik-ekmek means fish and bread. You’ll find grilled or fried fish sandwiches on the coast or fisher boats. It usually comes with garlic sauce.
  • Simit: This is a sesame seed circular bread. Simit in Istanbul tastes a little different from simit in Izmir. Simit is also called gevrek in Izmir.

Mussels: You can get them in restaurants and on the street in trays. They’re rice-stuffed mussels. In the end, the seller would count the shells to tell you how much they cost. You must try midye dolma before you leave Turkey.

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