Dishes from the countries of the Middle East are distinguished by spiciness, abundance of spices and spices. Turkish cuisine is no exception. Among its features, in addition to the richest choice of meat dishes, it is necessary to mention desserts and pastries.
Distinctive features of Turkish cuisine
The ritual of cooking in each country has its own peculiarities. The cuisine of Turkey today is a synthesis of European and Oriental dishes, combining the culinary traditions of many countries.
Dishes of Turkish cuisine are very diverse.
Its features are:
- Most meat dishes are cooked over an open fire. Barbecues, stoves with a grill or outdoor fireplaces are used.
- Turkey is an Islamic country. Therefore, on its territory there is a division into forbidden food (haram) and allowed (halal). So, pork is strictly prohibited, but alcohol, prohibited in Islam, can be found on sale.
- Bread can be called one of the main dishes. It is prepared directly for the meal – no house in Turkey will serve yesterday’s lavash or flatbread.
- An abundance of vegetarian dishes. A favorite vegetable is eggplant. There are several hundred recipes for salads, appetizers and soups from dark-fruited nightshades.
- Widespread street food in Turkey. In some provinces, right on the go you can buy not only buns, shawarma or kebab, but also tea, and freshly brewed.
- An unusual combination of different seasonings for Europeans. Among them are various types of spices that give both a burning taste and a mild aftertaste (Isot pepper), curry and saffron, which are sold both separately and in a mixture with turmeric and safflower.
- Mandatory serving of accompanying dishes to the table to stimulate appetite. These include all kinds of vegetable and cheese yogurts, meze, salads, meat balls.
- Among the meals, breakfast is most appreciated. In Turkey, there are special cafes and restaurants specializing only in morning meals.
According to Eastern traditions, the main thing in any dish is the natural taste of the main product. Hot spices can be used only if they complement the dish with their aroma.
Strict adherence to the balance between spices is also a distinctive feature of Turkish cuisine.
Turkey owes its abundance and variety of food products to its rich fauna, flora and geographical position – the country is washed by 4 seas. The origin of many ancient recipes is attributed to the times of the Byzantine Empire. By the time of the adoption of Islam (IX century), Turkey represented many Turkic tribes (Seljuks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians), each of which had its own traditions (including in the field of cooking).
Some ancient methods of cooking have survived to this day:
- cooking meat on a spit (borrowed from nomadic peoples who satisfied their hunger mainly by the fire after hunting or raiding);
- cooking soups in large soup cauldrons made of baked clay or porcelain;
- the technology of cooking dishes from rice, millet, buckwheat and beans has not changed much over the past centuries.
Starting from the end of the XVII century, when trade with Spain and America was established, Turkish cuisine began to gain independence from the influence of Arab countries. In the diet of the Turks there are outlandish vegetables brought from afar: red sweet peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. The cult of bread that existed in the Ottoman Empire is intensifying in its successor Turkey. In addition to cooking, table setting is of particular importance.
In addition to the traditions of respect for food, the culinary preferences of this country were formed by the so-called institute of palace cuisine. Until now, the giant premises of the Topkany Palace in Istanbul, which prepared food for more than 10,000 people daily, are preserved. By the XVIII century. in such kitchens worked about 12,000 employees (cooks, confectioners, bakers, etc.).
Popular cooking methods
For cooking in Turkey, almost all existing methods of processing food and bringing it to readiness are used. The choice of one or another method depends on the preferences of the chef, the type of products and the wishes of customers (guests).
The most used cooking technologies include:
- Frying. Meat is cooked in all possible ways – on an open fire, in a frying pan, in a deep fryer, in the oven or on the stove.
- Baking. Innumerable types of bread, flatbreads, both with and without filling, are cooked in a special oven or on coals.
- Quenching. The main side dish of Turkish cuisine is vegetables cooked in special dishes (cauldron or pan with a thick bottom).
- Blanching. This method is most often used for eggplants or for dishes with an abundance of onions and spicy seasonings. Vegetables are first briefly boiled in boiling water, then they are cooled in ice water to get rid of bitterness or an unpleasant taste.
- Cooking. It is used mainly for rice, cereals. To prepare Turkish hummus, peas are boiled for a long time until it softens as much as possible and turns into a creamy mass.
The main products of Turkish cuisine
All meat dishes are prepared, in accordance with the prescription of Islam, only from “pure” animals.
These include most artiodactyls (sheep, sheep, camels, cows, goats), all kinds of fish and poultry.
Products that are often used by Turkish chefs:
- Legumes. These include beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils, the main ingredient in most soups and salads.
- Cheeses, especially cheese. Often used both as independent dishes (snacks) and for mixing with other products. Especially popular are bread products with cheese filling.
- Spices. In Turkey itself, flakes of red pepper, cumin and cumin are invariably loved. This list can be supplemented with mint, thyme, sumac, ginger and anise.
- Olive oil. An indispensable product for the preparation of not only salads and cold dishes, but also confectionery (added to the dough).
- Sesame and cereals most commonly used for baking.
What Turks eat
In Turkey, eating is almost a sacred ritual, which is unacceptable to hold in a hurry. The number of meals per day can reach 5, and the dishes will vary from time to time. In addition, the menu on holidays is different from that on weekdays.
Each breakfast, lunch or dinner is preceded by a snack served 20-30 minutes before the main course. They should excite the appetite and prepare the stomach for a leisurely and plentiful meal.
In Turkey, all kinds of cold snacks are very popular.
In total, there are several varieties of Turkish meze (a generalized name for snacks):
- Cold. Eggplants, tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice, cheese or meat filling, salads, pickles, olives and sarma (cabbage rolls in the Turkish manner). In most cases, cold mezes are acute.
- Hot. Chylbyr (poached eggs with herbs and spices), baked mushrooms with cheese, karidesh güvech (boiled shrimp with tomatoes and garlic).
- Yoghurts. Served in small cups. The composition of the cream mass may include mint, olive oil, lemon juice, cheese and greens.
The first thing that a tourist or foreigner in Turkey pays attention to is the number of dishes served for the morning meal. Unlike Europeans, Turks prefer the most hearty breakfast, sometimes consisting of 8 or even 10 dishes.
Almost all gastronomic delights are easily digested and do not leave a feeling of heaviness in the stomach.
Depending on the city, a Turkish breakfast may include the following dishes and products:
- baking: freshly baked bread with various additives, bagels, loaves, puffs, flat cakes and ekmek (bread on a lush dough);
- cheeses and cottage cheese products: goat cheese, cheddar, moldy Konya cheese, etc .;
- olives: black, green, soaked in a marinade or stuffed, salted or soaked in lemon oil;
- mandatory item – egg dishes, which include both scrambled eggs familiar to europeans, and many types of omelet, glaze;
- jams and preserves: from mulberries, currants, cherries, figs, apricots and other types of berries and fruits.
As a drink, Turks like to drink black tea, which is brewed in a special kettle. By the end of breakfast, sweet dishes are served – halva, baklava and other desserts. At the end of the meal, a cup of Turkish coffee is brought. Most often, the serving is supplemented with a glass of ice water: local residents after a few sips of coffee take a sip of water to feel the taste of an aromatic drink.
A common lunch dish is doner kebab , a steak fried on a shampole and cut into thin slices. As a side dish, Turks choose pilaf, rice or stewed vegetables.
Turks like to have a hearty and hearty lunch.
An incomplete list of possible dishes served for lunch includes:
- First courses. Soups in Turkey are not eaten, but drunk, so most often they are brought in cups, and in consistency they are more like mashed potatoes or cream soups. Among them are shifa chorbasy soup from red lentils, milk tarkhan soup, corn and bulgur soups with sheep giblets.
- Main courses. These include sausages and sausages, sujuk (a smoked product of beef or lamb meat with lard), kebabs, kefte and roasts.
- Manti is a national Turkish dish that is definitely worth a try. In appearance, they look like large dumplings, but they are not cooked in water, but strictly steamed. Yogurt seasoned with pepper and tomato paste is served as a sauce.
- Pastries stuffed with minced meat, vegetables, cheeses or other products. Of particular demand is the Turkish pizza lahmajun, cooked on a thin yeast cake.
- Salads. The salads served for lunch are different from those for breakfast. The pride of the chefs is the piyaz salad, consisting of beans, olives, tomatoes, tahini and greens.
- Fish. Stuffed mullet baked in foil, swordfish kebabs, roasted bluefish and many other dishes.
Lunch is washed down with soft drinks, most often tea or ayran – salted yogurt mixed with cold water. However, guests or tourists may be offered a glass of wine or a glass of Turkish vodka.
An evening meal is a lighter version of lunch.
Dinner for the Turks is a time to enjoy desserts and coffee.
However, traditional snacks and full meals are also present on the table:
- Jajik (cucumber cream), haidari (analogue of garlic sauce) and other types of yogurt.
- Chickpea puree and dishes from it – masabaha or crushed beans.
- Ribs, fricasse in a clay pot, beef fried in the oven and any other meat dish.
- Pilaf or pilaf, in which peas, bulgur, tomatoes, and sometimes pistachios or dried fruits are added.
A hearty but light meal is sure to be completed by the last cup of coffee of the day. Along with it, confectionery is also brought, whose diversity is one of the hallmarks of Turkish cuisine.
In some cafes and restaurants in Turkey, after the main dishes, the waiter brings a plate of baklava. These small pieces of layer cake soaked in syrup and honey, stuffed with nuts or cardamom, are best prepared in their historic homeland.
Lovers of sweet delicacies recommend that you try such desserts:
- Qadaif. The finest “vermicelli” of unleavened dough, soaked in caramel syrup. They can differ in both shape and filling.
- Shekerpare. Almond biscuits decorated with berry marmalade or nuts.
- Ekmek Kadaif. Porous cake with cream and cream.
- Jezerye. Turkish pastille from pomegranate juice, carrots, sprinkled with coconut chips.
- Writing. In appearance, it resembles a ball of white woolen threads. The dessert tastes like cotton candy with a pronounced fruity aftertaste.
This list can be supplemented with Turkish delight (cubic, two-layer, whole and sliced), lokma (sweet dough balls, deep-fried and covered with caramel film), nuga and halva.
Each event in Turkey corresponds to a special table with a unique serving. So, the festival of sacrifice Kurban Bayram promises numerous meat treats, and on the holiday of sweets Sheker Bayram cafes and restaurants regale visitors with exquisite desserts. The main dish of the spring festival, celebrated on March 21-22, is baking – these days it is baked so much that some shops and cafes distribute cakes and bread for free to everyone.
The number of cafes, restaurants and food stalls located on the street can impress someone who visits this country for the first time. Most often they sell bakery products, which is explained by the many bakeries.
In street eateries you can try such dishes and drinks:
- freshly squeezed juice;
- dondurma (viscous ice cream) and kizarmis dondurma (breaded fried ice cream);
- fried chestnuts;
- iskender is a fatty meat dish in open pita bread;
- mussels with lemon;
- borecs – puff pastry pies with different fillings;
- kumpir – baked stuffed potatoes;
- various types of kebabs and meat dishes.
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
The range of alcohol in Turkey is small in comparison with European countries, which is due to the religious characteristics of the country. There is aniseed vodka raki (before use it is diluted with water), wines based on grapes, pomegranate, melon, mulberries and beer.
In recent years, buza has become popular – a sweet beer drink with a low alcohol content (4-6% alcohol).
Soft drinks are much more popular among the population:
- soda and mineral water (turks prefer to drink non-carbonated);
- gazoz – sweet carbonated drinks;
- salep – milk warming drink;
- salgam is a juice from fodder turnips, served with spicy dishes.
What to try from the national dishes of Turkey
If possible, it is best to try Turkish dishes in places where it is directly prepared. Meat lovers may like the carrot in the sandwich. The filling is prepared from the finely chopped entrails of a ram or lamb (heart, lungs, kidneys, liver), which are stuffed with lamb intestines. Chilled brine or ayran is served to the kokorech. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the fresh Turkish sherbet and syutlach – pudding from rice porridge with the addition of milk and eggs.
The name of the Turkish breakfast (kahvalti) translates as “before coffee” (i.e. the first meal). Among all the culinary diversity served to the morning table, first of all it is worth trying such dishes:
- Sahanda yumurt is scrambled eggs in a frying pan. It is prepared with spices, so the dish is very different in taste from the usual scrambled eggs.
- Kaymak – fatty cream for spreading on bread.
- Olives in any form.
- Honey and jam.
One of the types of scrambled eggs, which is served with stewed vegetables and herbs. Externally, the dish resembles an omelet. Menemen is very popular and is one of the national dishes of Turkey – it is prepared in all restaurants and cafes. They eat it directly from the frying pan.
Sesame bun with a crispy crust, rolled into a circle and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is the most common street food in Turkey. Simit can be bought on almost every corner – not only in stores, but also in food stalls standing on the street. Sometimes jelly, jam or cheese is sold along with pastries, and some merchants will offer a cup of tea to the bun.
Stewed vegetable mixture based on eggplant and sweet peppers. The main ingredient – eggplant – is stuffed with a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onions and meat fillings. Imam baildi is cooked only in olive oil. Serve on the table slightly cooled as an appetizer or as an independent dish.
One of the favorite snacks of tourists. Dolma is an analogue of cabbage rolls, but instead of cabbage leaves, grape leaves are used, and vegetables, lemon juice and currants are added to the minced meat. The leaves are rolled into small tubes and in this form are carried to the table.
There is also a vegetarian version of the dish – sarma.
This family of dishes includes many varieties of kebab and meat cooked on an open fire (the word itself is translated as “fry”). Kebab is most often prepared from lamb, calf or ram meat; less often – from chicken or turkey. A dish with vegetables, rice or bulgur is served.
In eateries and restaurants you can find the following species:
- iskender kebab – chopped lamb soaked in tomato sauce and ghee;
- adana – meat, crushed into minced meat and abundantly seasoned with spicy spices;
- jag – lamb kebab with the addition of chicken fat, basil and white pepper;
- doner kebab is lamb or lamb cooked on a vertically standing spit (analogue of shawarma).
This is the name of raw meatballs or small cutlets. However, due to the ban on cooking dishes from raw meat in public institutions, real chi kefte can be tasted only in non-tourist areas. Restaurants and cafes serve its vegetarian variety – cutlets of bulgur and wheat, seasoned with Tabasco sauce.
A flatbread of thin unleavened dough with a filling inside is often served as a cold snack before breakfast or lunch, and in some cases , with beer. Fillings can be very different – spinach with cheese, minced meat, mashed potatoes, fish, chopped vegetables.
Customs of Turkish cuisine
Meals in Turkey can last up to 5-6 hours, when the end of breakfast flows into preparation for lunch. In this slowness, an important purpose of meals is revealed: in addition to saturation, it is communication with each other, maintaining social contacts with your friends and relatives.
The customs of Turkish cuisine include other features:
- A special attitude to bread. It is not thrown away if it is stale, but is put in special containers, from where it is taken to animal shelters.
- The main drink is tea, not coffee. It is prepared in a two-story teapot (chaidanlyk), poured into tulip-shaped glasses. Tea drinking in Turkey is often no less long than breakfast or lunch.
- Food is not washed down. This also applies to confectionery products – tea is drunk either between dishes or at the end of a meal.
- The range of dishes in restaurants and cafes depends on the province. In the east of the country, they love meat, honey – in local eateries you can find the greatest variety of these products. And in Anatolia, preference is given to sweet delicacies – especially chestnut candied fruits and halva.
Recipes for home cooking
Many gastronomic masterpieces from Turkey can be prepared at home.
Dessert from semolina can be made even by a novice cook.
- Semolina – 200-250 g.
- Butter – 200 g.
- Milk – 500 ml.
- Nuts – 50 g.
- Sugar – 200 g.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the nuts and fry them a little. Then pour in semolina, add sugar, and then pour the mixture with milk, stirring constantly with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and wait for the milk to soak into the semolina. As soon as the consistency becomes thicker, mix the mass again, then allow it to cool and spread the finished halva on plates.
Turkish omelet is cooked for 15 minutes.
Of the products you need to have:
- tomatoes – 200 g;
- eggs – 2 pcs.;
- bulgarian pepper – 200 g;
- butter and vegetable oil – 25 g each;
- black pepper to taste.
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, peel them and cut them into cubes. Chop the bell peppers. Heat the pan, add two types of oil, in which lightly fry the resulting vegetable mixture, salt and pepper it.
As soon as the vegetables are softened, add the eggs and constantly stir the contents of the pan with a spoon. It is necessary to ensure that the omelet remains moist at the time of turning off the fire – it should not be fried. The dish is served with fresh bread, which the Turks dip in hot menemen.