Don't miss these delicious delicacies
Turkish food is an amazing cultural experience. It is varied and delicious. There are many types of kabobs or kebab. They are a traditional favorite here. They are skewers of various meats cut into bite sized pieces, marinated then grilled. They have a very popular Cag (pronunced ja) Kebap. Which is made with lamb. Others are made with beef or a mix of meats ground together with spices, then grilled, called Kofte Tavuk or chicken is my favorite. It can be served with lavash, a tortilla like wrap, or fresh bread. It is often served with salad as well. A unique variety is the Cig Kofte. It was traditionally made with raw ground meat, but today is made with a spiced bulgar. It is wrapped in lavish with pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce then served with a pomegranate sauce. It is sweet, salty and vinegary.
Turkish coffee or Khave is one of the great things about the culture. It is made of extremely finely ground coffee beans. The powdery coffee is then spooned into very small cups. Sugar cubes are added then water. It is stirred then (traditionally) placed in a pan of very hot sand to brew. When it is heated through and foaming it is ready. You need to wait for the grounds to settle, then enjoy the stout brew with a piece or two of locum or Turkish delight. It is a great time to socialize with friends.
Turkish delight and Lokum
Lokum or Turkish Delight, introduced to many westerners through the C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia series, is also a traditional favorite. It is commonly served with Turkish Kahve. I have seen so many different kinds! It can be similar to a fruit rollup or a marshmallow. It often contains nuts. Many variations are like a sort of gumdrop, and some are a combination. I’m sure I have only begun to scratch the surface of the different types.
Another of my favorites is Manti or ravioli. It is very small pieces of pasta filled with meat. It is served sometimes with a tomato sauce and garlic yogurt. The taste is similar to lasagna. It was served in beautiful copper pans which only enhanced the experience. I have found most restaurant staff to be very helpful and friendly even though I’m trying to order without knowing the language. They truly want to show hospitality and make your experience a good one.
Kahvalti - Turkish Breakfast
Kahvalti or Turkish breakfast is another unique experience. It consists of salad greens, tomatoes, lemon wedges, a variety of cheeses, olives, and eggs. It is served with a basket full of delicious fresh bread, honey, butter, and jams. It is also served with a cup of tea. A Simit or sesame bagel is also sometimes a part of the bread selection. The Turks are very big bread eaters, and no wonder, as it comes in a wide variety, and is always fresh baked. Menemum is also a great breakfast food. It reminds me of the way we eat our scrambled eggs in Texas. It is scrambled eggs cooked with tomato, onion, pepper, spices, and white cheese is added. It is slightly spicy and delicious served with fresh bread. The bread is dipped into the menemum. You may need to fight your neighbors off to get your fill of it! It goes fast!
Pide or a type of Turkish dish somewhat similar to pizza is also a delicious experience. One variety was served on an elevated wooden tray that spanned the length of the table. There were cheese and meat varieties. It was served with grilled peppers and salad.
Turkish desserts are gorgeous! They are ALMOST too pretty to eat. They have delicious lokum, chocolates, and dried fruit as well as beautiful cakes and pastries. A unique dish is kanefe. It is made of a sweet cheese, similar in texture to mozzarella, and wrapped in shredded philo dough and baked. A sweet syrup is then soaked into the pastry. Although strange sounding, it is very good. It tastes similar to a cheesy baklava.
Ice Cream - Dondurma
Dondurma is also a unique experience. It is served from street carts. It is traditionally made with goat milk and wild orchid root. The taste is similar to regular ice cream but it has a very sticky consistency. This consistency allows for playing a game with customers by flipping the ice cream around and tricking the customer as they are handed the ice cream. It has a fabulous variety of intense flavors.
Tea is a drink, but more than that a social connection. It is served all day in many settings. It is served at meals, when visiting shops, and even at gas stations. It is an act of hospitality, which the Turks are well known for. Two other drinks are very unusual for the Western palate. The first is Ayran, a salty, runny plain yogurt drink. While not unpleasant, I think it would be better used as a base for a salad dressing. The other, is Salgam. You have probably never had anything like it. The closest Western counterpart might be a spicy V8 juice. It is made of black carrots, turnips, high quantities of salt, and peppers. I didn’t mind it in moderation, but most of my companions were not fans. In one area called Erzincan they bottle a carbonated mineral water called Kizilay. We were able to get it straight from the spring at a local park in Erzincan, although I felt the bottled variety tasted better.
Turkey is also know for the fabulous apricots it produces as well as pistachios and hazelnuts. While touring in the Kamaliye area we picked wild fruit from the trees. I never gave mulberries much consideration until then. They are white there and some of the sweetest fruit you have ever eaten. Just grab a handful and wash them off in a mountain stream and you are good to go! You could also grab an Erik, a type of small plum off the trees. The Turkish men were adept at climbing the trees to shake them for their fruit, and also possibly to show off for the ladies just a bit.
Whatever you choose to try, you are in for a delicious adventure. I am still on the adventure and I hope to also be able to learn to cook a dish or two from my Turkish friends!