Famed as one of the great cuisines of the world, Turkish food offers a veritable feast for the taste buds. From the fresh, daily-baked crusty bread to the splendour of an Iftar banquet (Iftar is the traditional breaking of the day’s fast during Ramazan), there is something to delight everyone.
With influences ranging from Greece, the Middle East and Asia, there is much more to Turkish food than the ubiquituous kebabs ….
Breakfast – Typically, this consists of freshly-baked bread, beyaz peynir (white cheese), fresh tomatoes, cucumber, zeytin (olives), and of course çay (tea), always tea (probably grown in the Black Sea region). Sometimes this is accompanied by eggs, plus honey or jam, and perhaps kaymak (a kind of clotted cream). This fare can also be eaten as a light meal at any time of the day.
Lunch – This can vary of course, as many people are at work and thus eating out at this time. Usually a light meal, it can consist of soup and bread, salad, fish or meat dishes and rice.
Dinner – In most Turkish restaurants the meze tray is brought to the table, and the diner can choose from perhaps dozens of delicious appetisers, such as aubergine salad, cucumber with yoghurt, stuffed vine leaves, vegetables in olive oil, börek (small savoury pastries) and of course more delicious bread.
For the main course, this would probably be fish, or a meat dish, one of the many kinds of kebab, or köfte, accompanied by rice, pilaf and salad.
Dessert is often fresh fruit, such as melon, peaches, apricots, perhaps followed by Turkish coffee. Turks often visit a separate ‘pudding shop’ which serves milk-based desserts together with sticky baklava and other sweet pastry dishes.
If you are fortunate enough to visit a Turkish market, you will see mounds of the freshest and most delicious fruits and vegetables, all grown in Turkey. Even tea is grown here. Herbs and Spices are a vital part of Turkish cuisine, with the most popular being sumac, dereotu (dill), and maydanoz (parsley). The best place to see herbs and spices for sale is at the Mısır Çarşısı, known in English as the Spice Market, in Eminonu near the Galata Bridge. Here you will also find dried fruits, nuts, preserves, Turkish Delight, and tea and coffee. Pul biber (flaked semi-dried chili) is so widely used that it can often be found with the salt and pepper on restaurant tables!
Tea – Usually local, grown in the northern Black Sea area of Rize, tea is without doubt the most popular drink in Turkey, served black in distinctive ince belli (small waisted) tea glasses. It’s quite strong, and if you prefer it weaker you can ask for açık çay (light tea) which will have more water added. Also, not to be missed if you are there in winter are the traditional drinks sahlep, made from dried orchid root, and boza, made from fermented millet.
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