Turkish food is wonderful. The location of this wonderfully ‘foodie’ country at the cross-roads between the East and West, separating Europe from Asia means that Turkish dishes are influenced by both continents.
Turkish cuisine is a fusion between Balkan, Central Asian and Middle Eastern foodstuffs and preparation methods. Also as Turkey is a large country, there are many regional variations. For example, Istanbul, Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regional cooking comprises mostly seafood, vegetables, herbs and light spices. Whereas Adana is known for very spicy kebabs and desserts like baklava (filo pastry layers sweetened with honey, filled with chopped nuts) and kadaıf (vermicelli-like pastry stuffed with crushed nuts, powdered sugar and cinnamon and/or sweetened cream cheese).
Central Anatolia specialties include keşkek (kashkak – a type of meat or chicken stew served with wheat or barley) and mantı (dumplings), while Black Sea anchovy and maize dishes are due to Slavic/ Balkan influences. The liberal use of olive oil and thick yoghurt are common in all types of Turkish cuisine.
The locals appreciate home cooking above all else, so you’d be well privileged if you manage to cadge an invite. A typical menu would be a clear soup or meze starter (depending on the season), followed by a main dish of meat and vegetables boiled in a pot with either rice or crushed wheat and a mixed salad plus tsacık (yogurt, minced cucumber, fresh mint and garlic). For afters, some baklava, traditional Turkish tea and/or a small but most powerful cup of Turkish coffee might also be on offer.
If an invite is not forthcoming, don’t worry, there are plenty of restuarants and you can usually have a peak in the kitchen to see what’s being cooked. Dolma (stuffed vegetable) can be anything like vine leaves, courgettes or peppers filled with a variety of ingredients like rice and/or minced meat, flavoured accordingly. You can choose from fried vegetables like aubergine, peppers or courgettes served with sheep’s cheese or yoghurt. Then refresh yourself with ice-cold watermelon and halva (a flour or nut-based dense desert made from a variety of ingredients like sesame seed paste, nuts and honey, depending on region).
Börek (salty pastries) is something you may be offered with afternoon coffee or tea, as are a variety of spoon sweets (whole boiled fruits like pitted cherries in a runny over-sweet sauce made from juice), always served with a frosted glass of icy water.
One things for sure, you won’t go hungry in Turkey, nor will you be able to sample everything in a single, or even a few, visits.
Posted : Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save