Turkey’s Culinary Delights for Foodies to Try

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Turkey has a cuisine that’s as diverse as its culture. You can find everything from olive oil based dishes from the Mediterranean coast to hearty pastries from Central Anatolia.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, opt for a pide (a Turkish bagel) filled with your choice of filling. Go for a classic like kiymali kofte or try it with cheese and peppers (kiymali kasarli).

Karniyarik

One of the best things about Turkish cuisine is the wide variety of vegetable dishes. Indeed, the chapter on vegetable dishes in the book Timeless Tastes is filled with delicious recipes, from a mixed vegetable casserole to artichokes with lamb and purslane with minced meat. But it also has a few vegetarian dishes, like this karniyarik recipe, which is an eggplant dish stuffed with a mix of sautéed onions, garlic, black pepper, tomatoes, optional green pepper, parsley and ground meat.

The name comes from a Turkish word that literally means ‘split belly’, and is a reference to the way the aubergines are split and then stuffed. It’s a classic Turkish home-cooking dish and the dish that many a Turk longs for most when they are far away from their mother’s kitchen.

It’s a hearty, satisfying meal in itself that captures the warmth of Turkish spices and the rich flavours of sauteed meat, vegetables and aromatic herbs. It’s also easy to make, a dish that can be made well ahead of time and reheated before serving. If you do prepare it in advance, simply store the stuffed eggplants with the sauce in an airtight container and keep in the fridge. This ensures that the stuffed aubergines stay moist and juicy. A delicious dish to share with family and friends! It’s vegan, too.

Mercimek Koftesi

Turkish cuisine offers a culinary journey that will delight your senses. From seafood to meze (cold appetizers) and sweets to desserts, Turkish cuisine is an all-encompassing gastronomic experience. While many of Turkey’s iconic dishes can be found in restaurants throughout the country, there are also plenty of culinary gems that are best enjoyed at home. If you are interested in visiting Turkey, hiring someone to tour Turkey would help you enjoy more your trip.

Mercimek koftesi is a hearty vegan dish that uses tender red lentils and fine bulgur to create a satisfying harmony of flavors. The addition of a mild Turkish pepper paste brings a hint of spice that harmonizes with the earthy richness of the bulgur, while the aromatic scallions and minced flat-leaf parsley provide subtle brightness.

Another staple of a Turkish meal, mercimek koftesi is often served alongside ayran (a popular yogurt drink that aids digestion) and grilled vegetables like okra, eggplant and bell peppers. It can also be accompanied by traditional Turkish breads, such as sigara borek, haydari or mucver.

Expatriates can easily find these delectable Turkish foods at their local markets, known as pazars. A visit to the market is an ideal way to immerse oneself in local culture while discovering fresh ingredients and regional specialties.

Baklava

Baklava is a delectable Turkish dessert of phyllo pastry layered with nuts and sweet syrup. It is also popular in Turkey’s neighboring cultures, such as Greece and Balkan countries. Baklava is often prepared using different combinations of nuts and many recipes feature a variety of spices, including cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and rosewater. Phyllo sheets are brushed liberally with butter and then stacked together before baking, with the filling (pistachios, walnuts, and almonds) placed in between.

Expatriates eager to discover more of Turkey’s culinary culture should venture to local markets, known as “pazars.” These bustling stalls are filled with a kaleidoscope of spices and herbs, plump dried fruits, and fragrant fresh produce. The flurry of activity and symphony of haggling voices create a truly authentic experience and offer the opportunity to connect with welcoming locals.

Turkey’s diverse dishes and dining customs are a tantalizing treasure trove waiting to be explored. Hearty kebabs, delicate mezes, and luscious desserts can all be found throughout the country, whether at restaurants, street stalls, or family dinner tables. And, no meal is complete without a cup of strong, rich Turkish coffee, served in a cezve.

Balik Ekmek

If you’re on a diet to get a beach bod, Turkey might not be the best destination for you, as its mouth-watering food is chiefly a continuance of Ottoman cuisine. However, if you can forget about a healthy lifestyle and have the stomach for it, there’s plenty of culinary delights to try out. From hearty meat dishes to stuffed dumplings and honey-drenched sweets, Turkish foods are simply irresistible.

Balik ekmek, also known as fish sandwiches, is a hearty and affordable street delicacy that’s easy to find in almost every corner of the country. You can enjoy this dish at a restaurant or from a small mobile fish seller, who is usually stationed in the crowded areas by the seaside. For a truly authentic experience, head to the Eminonu or Ortakoy area, where you can even watch the fishermen pulling their fresh catch from the water!

Another must-try Turkish dish is mercimek koftesi, which are vegetarian meat balls. They are made of lentil flour and seasoned with different spices. They’re often dipped in sauces like muhhamara, which is made with peppers and dried fruits. And, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, make sure to try katmer, a traditional dessert that consists of crushed up pistachios sandwiched between layers of a flaky pastry. It’s the perfect dessert to end your meal on a sweet note! It’s especially popular during Ramadan, but can be found throughout the year.

Lokum

Turkish delight, also known as lokum (from the Arabic influenced Ottoman Turkish word rahat-ul-hulkum meaning “heals the throat”) is a traditional confection that has been enjoyed throughout Turkey for over 230 years. Its popularity spread throughout Europe as travellers to Istanbul took boxes of the pink taffy-like treats back home with them.

The Turkish confection is made by combining sugar, water and cornstarch, then flavored with various ingredients such as rosewater or lemon. Some variations also contain chopped nuts or dried fruit. The mixture is then cooked and allowed to set before being cut into bite-sized pieces and dusted with powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent sticking.

Many different types of lokum exist, ranging from the classic pink cubes flavoured with rosewater to a bar-shaped variety that is more like a cheesecake than a jelly. Kaymak lokum (clotted cream lokum) is one of the most common and delicious varieties, and the pistachio or hazelnut-filled ones are also popular.

Another of the most popular dishes in Turkey is guvec, a hearty stew made with lamb or beef. It’s usually simmered until super-tender, and topped with onions, peppers, tomatoes and a sprinkle of pul biber (red chili flakes). It’s best eaten with a side of bread for scooping, as you would in most other Turkish meals. It’s a great comfort food and also makes for a wonderful lunch to bring on a long hike or road trip.

Manti

Turkey is a foodie’s paradise and its cuisine has a rich history that spans across continents. From the savory to the sweet, Turkish dishes have something for every palate.

One of the most distinctly Eastern foods of the country is manti, bite-sized dumplings of lamb meat and bathed in garlicky yogurt sauce. These aren’t just for Turks, though: Similar variations of the dish can be found in Central Asia, West Asia and Balkan countries such as Ukraine where it is called varenyky or Poland where it is referred to as pierogi.

While the savoury side of Turkey’s culinary delights is well-known, its dessert culture also deserves a mention. Istanbul is home to a variety of exquisitely decadent treats such as baklava, layers of delicate pastry lovingly laced with a profusion of finely chopped nuts and soaked in luscious syrup. There are also warm cheese-filled pastries such as ‘kunefe’ and ‘kadayif’ that dance exotic flavours on the tongue, and ‘Tavuk Gogsu’ made with shredded wheat and scented with rosewater, pistachio or pomegranate for a unique twist on an old favorite.

Seafood lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to the city’s bustling fish markets. The humble grilled mackerel sandwich known as ‘balik ekmek’ is a delicious treat that combines tender fish, zesty onions and crunchy lettuce in a warm baguette. You can top it with tangy sumac or Middle-Eastern spice blend za’atar to enhance the flavours.