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In Turkey, the freshness of the ingredients is the reason that Turkish food tastes so good. The fruits and vegetables sing in your mouth. This guide will tell you about Turkish food, starting with bread.
The bakers of the Ottoman Empire thought that Adam, the patron saint of bakers was taught to make bread by the Archangel Gabriel. To this day bread has major cultural significance in Turkey. It is usually baked twice a day, early in the am and late in the afternoon so folks heading home from work can have fresh bread at dinner time. People in the west make do with packaged bread but in Turkey bread is bought fresh, when it is still crisp. There are many types of bread but here is information about four. The fresh baked elongated loaf of bread which looks like French bread is the bread that most people eat during the day. Then there is flat bread, familiar to all of us as pita bread (pide in Turkish) which is good for wrapping stuff up in, lavash a wafer thin type of bread also good for wrapping and simit, which is a round bread , rather like a bagel, covered with sesame seeds, sold everywhere - it is good for a snack on the run. There are many other varieties of bread and you can sample some of them at breakfast buffet's all over Turkey. The world for bread in Turkish is ekmek.
Now onto mezze, what people in the west call hors d'oeuvres. There are many different kinds of mezze: hummus, baba ganoush, (chickpea and eggplant dips), stuffed grape leaves, cigars (fried dough filled with cheese), fried eggplant, cacik which is yoghurt with cucumber and garlic and most anything else you can think of. Another is fried mussels on a stick, great with a beer. Some restaurants such as the Marmara Terrace in Istanbul have special mezze. Gozleme, that is Turkish crepes, are wonderful pancakes which you can top with stuff. Also salad, (salat) shepherd's salad, now known world-wide is cucumber, tomato, onion, sometimes green pepper, sometimes topped with feta cheese, a squeeze of lemon and you are in salad heaven. There are a variety of cheeses in Turkey (peynir), hard cheeses, and feta cheeses. A word here about pide, often called Turkish pizza it is flat bread topped with yummy stuff of your choice. Folded over and cut up it is called kapali. There is also kumpir, potato filled with whatever you want.
Now suppose you get hungry and want to eat a somewhat larger meal. Then you can have kebobs, grilled anything. There are fish kebabs, meat kebabs, chicken kebabs, vegetable kebabs, and the national snack doner kebab which is lamb kept warm on a vertical spit and sliced to order. There are minced versions of kebabs the Urfa kebab and the very popular Adana kebab. You can get your kebab with rice, or potatoes, often you will find it served with both and a roasted hot pepper. The fish in Turkey is wonderful as is the seafood. A word of caution, a lot of places don't debone the fish so be careful. When in Istanbul go down to Nevizade Street and try the fish or anything else in the endless array of restaurants. Oops almost forgot meatballs, available in may varieties, such as manti which is like Turkish ravioli, lamb meat in dough with yogurt.
Now a word about drinks. Tea (cay) is the national drink. Everyone drinks tea at all hours of the day and night. You can see tea sellers with their brass trays, scurrying about bringing tea to thirsty people. Turkey has some special teas. Apple tea is delicious, true apple flavor and very refreshing as is lemon tea and sour cherry tea. Turkish coffee is good and you can read your fortune in the grounds. (khave), a word here about coffee, Some Istanbul hotels are now serving perked coffee and there is also Starbucks in Istanbul. Beers are very fine. (bira). A good one is Efes but there are other good brands. In the past wines were not very drinkable. But now things have vastly improved and there is an array of moderately priced white and red wines that are good. Turkey is a Muslim country so alcoholic beverages are not served in some restaurants but it is available in most places in Istanbul. Raki is like anisette only better, licorice flavored and very tasty, diluted with water it assumes a milky color. (sometimes raki is called "lion's milk ) maybe because too much can make you roar like a lion?) Raki is especially good with mezze. Stay away from violently colored juice drinks served in some hotels and opt for real juice (cherry, peach). Also in Turkey drink bottled water, (su), everyone does.
Now you've eaten a big meal and want some dessert. If you want to emulate your Turkish hosts, eat fruit. Sweet desserts are saved for a snack or for teatime. Melons are wonderful, peaches especially white ones are to die for (legend has it that it was the peach, not the golden apple that figures in the story of Paris and Helen of Troy), grapes of course and don't forget apricots. Sour cherries are very special in Turkey. Try some of the sour cherry preserves. Also the honey is very very good. Especially honey coming from the Eastern Turkish region of Kars.
Pastry in Turkey. Don't think only of baklava, there are sultans , a sausage shaped pastry with coconut in citrus flavors, yummy, chestnut chocolates from Kafka in Istanbul. And then there is Turkish Delight (lokum) known all over the world. There are also puddings (thanks here to Villa Rhapsody who told about them in a recent post). Noah's Ark pudding has a startling variety of ingredients including white beans, chick peas and pomegranates. Also kunefe, a fried dessert with cheese. Turkish ice cream is fabulous. Often homemade and in a variety of flavors it is good tasty treat for tired travelers. Why not have some pistachio ice cream in the home of pistachios.
So there you have it. Now go to Turkey and enjoy the people, the sights and the food. Afiyet Olsun (that means Hearty Appetite). Thanks to VillaRhapsody for her fine contributions to this page!! Teshkur Ederim.