It is said that there are three major kinds of cuisines in the world; Turkish, Chinese, and French. Fully justifying its reputation, Turkish Cuisine is always a pleasant surprise for the visitor.
In addition to being the refined product of centuries of experience, Turkish Cuisine has a very pure quality. The variety and simplicity of the recipes and the quality of the ingredients are guarantees of delicious meals.
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 Shish kebab 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 different types of Köfte as typical meat dishes.
The aubergine is used in a wide variety of dishes from Karniyarik (cut belly) and Hünkarbegendi (sultan’s favorite), 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 (imam fainted).
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: 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 is justifiably renowned. A typical appetizer prepared with yogurt and cucumber is Cacik. And, of course, don’t forget to try Manti (ravioli) with loads of yogurt.
One notable variety are the “Zeytinyaglilar”, dishes cooked with olive oil. “Dolma” is a name applied to such vegetables as grape leaves (Sarma), cabbage leaves, and green peppers (Biber dolma) stuffed with spiced rice.
Turkish sweets are famous throughout the world and many of these have milk as the basic ingredient such as Sütlaç, Tavuk gögsü, Helva, Kazandibi, Asure. Meanwhile the best-known Turkish dessert is Baklava.
Among the national drinks one can easily name the Turkish coffee and the Turkish tea, but also ayran, shira, salgam, sahlep and boza should be mentioned as well. 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 anise, which is called as “lion’s 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 ones such as yayla soup and the tarhana.
Mezes are “Hors d’oeuvres” or appetizers figuring mainly at meals accompanied by wine or raki . Eaten sparingly, they arouse the appetite before the meal proper. Examples of meze include gozleme, fried aubergines with yogurt, lakerda (bonito pre-served in brine), pastirma (pressed beef), kisir, fish croquettes, and lambs’ brains with plenty of lemon juice. At many restaurants a selection of mezes is brought to the table on a tray immediately after the drinks are served for the customers to make their choice.
Turkey is surrounded by several seas around hence there are also many different dishes in the Turkish cuisine based on fish, especially along the coastal areas. One of these traditional dishes is Hamsi Kofte from the Blacksea region in the north.