The people in Turkey eat Turkish food
Culinary highlights in Turkey: You should definitely try these Turkish dishes
The sun-drenched beaches of the Turkish west and south coast are among the top travel destinations for beach holidays. Istanbul with the Hagia Sofia, the Topkapi Palace and many other world-famous monuments is at the top of the list for cultural travelers. However, what you rarely find on the coast as well as in Turkish cities are kebab shops as we know them from Germany. It is not that there is no kebab in Turkey, but the way they are offered in Germany is only considered typical Turkish food here. In the extremely varied cuisine of Turkey, the kebab is just one dish among many others. Because in the culinary world of the country between Orient and Occident, whose (food) culture is shaped by numerous influences, there is so much more that you should definitely try on a holiday in Turkey.
How do the Turks actually (really) eat?
Definitely not on the street. Street or fast food is far less common in Turkey than it is here. In big cities like Istanbul and Ankara this trend has also found its way, but “food to go” is still the exception. In the tourist resorts on the coasts, which are highly frequented by tourists, you actually get one or the other kebab on hand. However, it is similar to the latte macchiato. It didn't even exist in Italy in the past. It is a creation that originated in Germany and was then carried to Italy by the holidaymakers. The doner kebab in flatbread with salad and yoghurt sauce is also a tourist export.
The fact that Turks rarely eat on the street has to do with the fact that food is so important in Turkey. To be precise: eating together. Gathering around the table with family, relatives and friends and having a good meal is an essential part of social life. That is one of the reasons why dinner is the most important meal of the day. Then you have enough time and besides, it's not that hot anymore. The big meals together on Sundays or on public holidays are even more important.
In order to have enough appetite for a sumptuous meal in the evening, breakfast and lunch are rather sparse during the week. For breakfast there is usually only white bread, butter, olives, a few tomato and cucumber slices and sheep's cheese. But it can also be a menemen, a form of scrambled eggs to which tomatoes, pointed peppers and / or garlic sausage (sucuk) are often added. The traditional black tea (Çay) is also drunk. In Turkey, breakfast is eaten relatively early, just before work, and mostly at home.
Lunch (between 1pm and 3pm) is often taken with colleagues or friends. It often consists of a soup and a rice dish with fried vegetables, meat or fish (pilaf / pilavlar). Incidentally, the traditional Turkish restaurants, the “Lokantas”, usually serve smaller portions because the Turks love to put together a meal from several dishes. These are often kept in a showcase and can be selected there. The Turkish version of the pizza (pide) and the dumplings filled with minced meat, sheep cheese or spinach (Börek) are usually found there.
Dinner then begins around 9 p.m. and is not infrequently extended into the late night. Just like on Sundays and public holidays, relatives and friends are also invited to dinner. The Turks are passionate about hosts. There can't be enough guests. Once you enjoy a dinner invitation, you can expect a real experience. By the way, cancellation is considered extremely rude. But you shouldn't do that anyway, because nowhere else will you get to know Turkish food better.
There are countless dishes on the table, which were often prepared with a great deal of time. It starts with cold starters (mezze / mezeler). Afterwards there is usually a soup and then the main course, which can also consist of several dishes placed on the table. Grilled meat and fish dishes with rice or wheat groats (bulgur) and possibly various vegetables are typical. It is not over yet. The Turks love desserts and also serve them up in abundance.
People like to eat only with a fork, but knives are usually also on the table. Many things are also simply taken by hand or with a piece of bread, especially the starters. Remember, however, to only ever use the right hand for this, as the Muslims consider the left hand to be unclean. The soup is often simply drunk. If you are on the verge of bursting at some point, you have to put your cutlery politely but firmly away from the plate. As long as you don't do that, the dishes will continue. And there is something else you have to consider. For Turks blowing your nose at the table is like burping for us. Therefore, when you need to blow your nose, it's best to go to the bathroom.
What is typical Turkish food?
This question is not that easy to answer, at least not with a few sentences. Turkey is more than twice the size of the Federal Republic of Germany, lies on two continents, borders on eight countries and is regionally as diverse as a small universe. Food in Turkey is therefore very diverse. In Central Anatolia, the dishes have their origins in the simple life of shepherds and farmers, but there is also a strong oriental influence. In the west, Greek, Turkish and Balkan cuisine mix with one another and on the coasts the cuisine is heavily influenced by fish dishes and seafood.
What is now referred to as Turkish cuisine is largely due to Anatolia. Due to the widespread livestock farming, Anatolian cuisine is characterized by lamb, goat and chicken. Due to the predominantly Muslim belief, there is hardly any pork and beef is also rarely found. The meat is usually grilled or braised, rarely fried or steamed. The side dishes are what is grown in the fields. These are above all cereals, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini, peppers, chickpeas, beans and lentils. There are large rice fields in Northern Anatolia. The grain is processed into bread, which is one of the most important staple foods, and wheat groats as the basis for bulgur. Cheese and yogurt are made from sheep and goat milk. The widespread cacik (yoghurt with cucumber, dill and garlic) also comes from Anatolia.
Anatolian cuisine is widespread throughout the country, but is complemented by regional dishes. Grilled fish is plentiful along the coast, including turbot, swordfish, perch, octopus, and seafood such as shrimp, crab, and lobster. The legacy of the Ottoman Empire can also be found in Turkish cuisine to this day. The so-called Ottoman palace kitchen was celebrated in the magnificent palace in Istanbul. For example, she produced baklava and the refinement of dishes with fine spices. Istanbul is still the place where you can discover Turkey culinary at the highest level.
What does the kebab have to do with Turkish cuisine?
There are numerous fairy tales and myths about the kebab. A popular variant says that a certain Mehmet Aygün invented the kebab in 1971. But not in deepest Anatolia or in the middle of Istanbul, but on Cottbusser Damm in Berlin-Kreuzberg. That alone says what “our Dörner” has to do with Turkish cuisine: a little something, but not too much.
Travel reports from the 18th century show that at that time in Anatolia there were already vertical, rotating skewers on which meat was grilled. At that time it was mostly mutton. The Turkish word for “to turn” is “dönmek”. This is where the name kebab is derived. “Kebab” refers to small, fried pieces of meat in Turkish. The doner kebab is simply a dish made from small pieces of meat roasted on a rotating skewer. But it's not Turkey's national dish. In addition, the doner kebab is traditionally served on a plate, usually accompanied by rice and fresh flatbread.
However, kebabs are very popular with the Turkish population. In addition to the doner kebab, there is also the shish kebab, for example. This is a skewer with pieces of lamb and paprika that is simply placed on the grill. Also very tasty! However, eating Turkish does not automatically mean that it has to be meat. The Turks also eat a lot of vegetables, which they use to make tasty stews. And they make wonderful soups from tomatoes, green or red lentils and much more.
Culinary Turkey: starters from 1001 nights
The mezze (Turkish also mezeler) are one of the absolute highlights of Turkish cuisine and go back to the oriental influence. Mezze is a small meal that consists of vegetables, salad, meat, seafood or pasta and is usually served cold.
The best-known mezze include the chickpea puree known as humus and the cacik made from yogurt, cucumber and garlic. Haydari is a puree made from spinach, sheep cheese and also yogurt. The Patican Ezmesi is made from pureed aubergines. Typical for a mezze are the vine leaves filled with rice (dolma) or the shepherd's salad (coban Salatasi) with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions and sheep's cheese. Dumplings filled with sheep's cheese or minced meat (Börek) can also be part of the mezze, as can fried balls made from grated zucchini. Ezme is of particular importance. The spicy puree made from tomatoes, peppers and parsley is now really a national dish. Almost every family has their own recipe for it.
Mezze are usually eaten as a starter and always several together, so practically like a mixed starter plate. Just looking at the many small bowls is a pleasure. There is usually delicious fresh bread. If you are in Turkey, then you can get a great introduction to a typical Turkish meal.
Typical main dishes of Turkish cuisine
Of course, with the mezze you have to make sure that you leave space for the main course. Even if you only want to try a Turkish doner kebab once. But it's worth trying something different. For example the spicy Köfte, which are made from lamb or minced beef and are characterized by their many spices. Köfte are available as minced meat skewers, minced meatballs or minced meat patties. Basically it is the Turkish counterpart to the German meatball, but with an oriental touch. Sucuk, on the other hand, is comparable to the German bratwurst. The sucuk consists of beef or veal and - like almost everything in Turkey - is heavily seasoned.
Similar to the Italian tortellini, the Turkish dumplings are manti with a spicy meat filling. We particularly recommend the stews and stews, which are available in countless variations, for example as a bean stew with lamb or with potatoes and meatballs in a tasty tomato sauce. Many meat dishes are cooked for hours in a clay pot. Tas kebab made from beef and onions is one such dish. The meat in this dish is so tender that it melts on your tongue. In Turkey, fish are mostly cooked on the grill. There are also delicious fish stews such as the Cinarcik Usulü Balik (Marmara style fish pan) with swordfish, crabs and perch.
The rice dish pilav (pilavlar) has already been mentioned. It is made from long grain rice, a broth, onions, vegetables and meat (usually lamb or chicken) or with fish. The pure vegetable variant is often served as a side dish in Turkey.
The best comes last
A meal without dessert is not a real meal in Turkey. Baklava, small pieces of dough with nuts and pistachios that are soaked in honey and syrup, are particularly popular. The lemon semolina cake Revani and the yeast balls Lokma are also soaked in sugar syrup. A puree made from oil seeds, honey and sugar is widespread throughout the Orient, to which cocoa, vanilla, almonds, nuts or pistachios are added, depending on the region. It is known as Halva or, as it is called in Turkey, Helva. All very sweet, but also very tasty. But especially on hot days, only one fruit plate with melons, bananas, peaches, apricots or grapes is served. A Turkish mocha, on the other hand, is always part of it.
Culinary Turkey: Bloggers reveal their highlights of Turkish cuisine
What would a report on Turkish cuisine be without recipes? Now that we've made your mouth water, we would of course like to introduce you to some recipes that are worth trying out. We asked some bloggers to present their favorite Turkish recipe. From dumplings with meat filling for breakfast to a vegetarian salad, everything is included - so everyone gets their money's worth!
Börek by Natalie (holunderweg18.de)
Natalie is a passionate cook and blogs on Holunderweg18 about vegetarian recipes with seasonal ingredients. She has never been to Turkey herself, but the country is high on her to-travel list. Nevertheless, she has often come into contact with Turkish cuisine. During her studies in the Ruhr area, she was able to fully enjoy the cultural diversity of the cafés and restaurants and thus get to know the various dishes of Turkish cuisine. She ate her first Börek in Duisburg and since then the Turkish appetizer - either as Su Börek or Sigara Börek (like here) - has been an integral part of her cuisine.
Recipe for 10 Börek rolls:
- 10 sheets of yufka dough (either rectangular or triangular)
- 300g frozen leaf spinach
- 200g fat
- 3 tbsp natural yogurt
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder (or Pul Biber)
- Salt pepper
- about 5 tablespoons of olive oil
Thaw the spinach, squeeze it out well (so that it's not too wet) and cut into small pieces. Mash the feta in a mixing bowl with a fork, then mix with the yogurt, parsley and spices and fold in the chopped spinach. Important: The filling for the Sigara Börek should be a little over-seasoned rather than too little seasoned.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees top / bottom heat.
Carefully remove the yufka dough from the package, because it is very thin and easy to tear. Put a sheet of yufka dough in front of you. For a rectangular dough with one point pointing towards you, for a triangular dough with the point pointing away from you. Remove a tablespoon from the filling and place it in the center of the dough, about 3 cm from the bottom edge. Fold the lower edge of the dough over the filling from below, hold the filling with your thumb and forefinger and fold the filled dough upwards again.
Now coat the dough over the filling thinly with a little olive oil and fold the dough from the left and right on top of the rolling pin that contains the filling. Now you roll up the Sigara Börek completely (not too loosely) and finally coat it all around with olive oil. Place all of the Börek rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake the filled rolls for about 15 minutes until they are crispy brown.
Gözleme by Ayse (ayses-kochblog-koeln.de)
Ayse has been writing on her food blog since 2015. She likes to try out new products and recipes, some of which she also presents in her YouTube vlog on Sundays. Ayse has Turkish roots, so it is not surprising that her specialties include mainly Turkish dishes. The expert for Turkish cuisine shared a breakfast with us, which is rather unusual for Germany: Gözleme. These are Turkish dumplings that are very often eaten for breakfast in Turkey.
Ingredients for 10 gözleme:
- 500g flour
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 level tablespoon of salt
- 280ml lukewarm water
- later for brushing: butter
For the filling:
- 300g minced meat (lamb or beef)
- 15ml water
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 onion
- 1 teaspoon sumac / paprika flakes
- pepper from the grinder
- 1 teaspoon salt
Work the flour, olive oil, salt and water into a non-sticky dough. The best way to do this is with your hands, as this is the fastest.
Then you weigh 50g each and roll the portions into ten small rolls.
Now it's the turn of the filling: cut the garlic and onion into very fine cubes. Then mix them with the mince, water and spices.
Roll out a dough roll until it is approx. 2.3mm thin. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the middle and now close all sides tightly like an envelope.
Now the Gözleme are fried in a well-coated pan (without butter or similar) on each side for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Turn the dumplings over and over again. When they get color they are done! Then brush with butter. So the Gözleme stay cold and warm and soft.
Spoon salad from Dirk (sonachgefuehl.de)
For Dirk, there is nothing better than people who cook together, eat together and talk to each other. His blog therefore offers many recipes that can be prepared in good company and then enjoyed. He especially likes to prepare Anatolian recipes for this. His spoon salad, also called Gavurdağ Salatası, is one such recipe. The Turkish dish is quick to prepare and perfect for keeping many people satisfied and happy.
- 6 ripe tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 1 bunch of fresh mint
- 1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
- 100 g walnut kernels
- 2 thin green pointed peppers (Sivri beaver)
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 2 tbsp pomegranate syrup (Nar Ekşisi)
- 60 ml of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon mild vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4-5 tbsp pomegranate seeds
Core the pomegranate. Caution: Never cut deep into the pomegranate with a knife, otherwise there will be a big mess! With a sharp knife, score an approx. 5 cm lid around the base of the handle and lift it off. Below you can see the kernels and you can see webs that run to the outer wall of the Guaranteed Apple. Depending on the variety, that's 5-8 pieces. Now scratch the pomegranate shell vertically along these ridges with the knife, similar to an orange. Then turn the pomegranate over and break it apart with your hands away from your body. Then carefully peel the kernels out of the individual chambers.
Halve and core the tomatoes, trying to drain as much liquid as possible so that the salad doesn't get too moist. Then cut the tomato into fine cubes that shouldn't be bigger than the pomegranate seeds.
The pointed peppers and the cucumber are halved and pitted and also cut into pomegranate-sized cubes. The onion is also cut into fine cubes. If you don't have a red onion, you can also use spring onions.
The walnut kernels are also chopped to the same size. Finely chop the herbs just before serving.
Put all the cut ingredients in a bowl along with the pomegranate seeds. Mix the guaranteed apple syrup, the vinegar and the olive oil together with the salt into a vinaigrette and pour over the salad together with the sumac and mix well. Then divide the salad into small bowls with spoons and serve immediately.
Baklava by Alexa (keksundkoriander.de)
Alexa writes on her food and travel blog about her travels around the globe and the dishes she has brought back from there. The Munich resident travels mainly to South America and Asia, so that there are many delicious recipes from these regions on her blog. But the cake lover also likes Turkish cuisine. So it's no wonder that she contributed a delicious baklava recipe to our Turkey contribution. She herself says about the recipe:
The first time I tried baklava not in Turkey, but in Vienna. At the Naschmarkt with a strong coffee, the sweet, nutty particles were just the thing to get over a little afternoon low. At home I wanted to imitate it, but in a slightly less sweet version that goes well with a white coffee. It's not that traditional, but it's still incredibly tasty.
- 250g filo pastry
- 300g chopped nuts (mixed, e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios)
- 120g sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 120g butter
- 150ml water
- 75ml agave syrup
- 70ml honey
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Casserole dish, approx. 20 * 30cm
Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the filo pastry sheets to match the casserole dish and coat the shape with the butter. Then brush the filo pastry sheets individually with the butter and place four of them on top of each other in the mold. Put about 2 tablespoons of one type of nut aside (pistachios are particularly suitable), mix the remaining nuts with the cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of sugar and distribute a third of them on the pastry sheets. Butter the next four sheets of pastry and place in the baking dish, again spread a third of the nuts on top. Repeat again and finish with the remaining pastry sheets. Brush with the remaining butter and cut into a diamond shape with a sharp knife. Bake for 25 minutes until the surface is golden brown.
During the baking time, put the water with the remaining sugar, honey, agave syrup and lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar has dissolved and everything is well mixed.
Take the pastries out of the oven and pour the syrup evenly over them. Spread the remaining nuts on top, let cool and enjoy with coffee.
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