Turks blame it on the freshness of the ingredients while foreigners fall in love with its every bite, instantly; Turkish cuisine shall be given some credit. Some consider it among very few real cuisines in the world, along French and Chinese delight.
In centuries of experience and tradition, Turkey has had the chance to bring its delight into an adventurous getaway of daily routine, a specialty really that gives thousands runny mouths. The secret is intertwined somewhere in between the organic ingredients, love for spices and simplicity overall.
For starters, Turkish people love bread. Whether it is the common elongated white loaf you can find everywhere, in any of the tables, the flat bread commonly known as pide used to wrap stuff inside, to continue with wafer and simits, the Turkish version of a bagel yet round, covered in sesame seeds perfectly accompanied by Ajran, another common Turkish beverage. Many different types of breads and pastries are also part of the Turkish cuisine, ideal for a midday snack, over some rounds of Turkish black tea.
Since we are talking pastries, pies are a rare delicacy in the Turkish tradition, especially “borek” the ultimate followed by “manti” covered in full fat yoghurt and garlic. The Turkish fetishism for stuffed foods continues with “dolma” another traditional dish where peppers, cabbage leafs, zucchini and other vegetables are stuffed with rice, bulgur and spices into a main vegetarian dish.
In addition to the love for bread and pastries, meat is another essential ingredient to the Turkish cuisine.
Kebap, a classic Turkish recipe is nothing but stewed or grilled meat, and everywhere around turkey is seems like everyone has a different, unique recipe of the same dish. Sis Kebap, a Turkish dish pretty famous around the world, combines pieces of lamb on a stick slowly grilled. Simple but fabulous. While we are talking about meat specialties, you might as well try “doner”, and different types of meatball specialties, “Alanazik”, “Sac Kavurma”, “Tandir”.
On the other hand, you also have vegetable dishes and salads, where eggplant seems to be a common ingredient, in lovely combinations of fresh and fried dishes. One of them is the all-time favorite “imam bayildi”.
Soups are also a common part of the whole package service, topped by a sweet dish in the end for those who crave sugar. However, even though they are usually served as an appetizer, sometimes they can be as heavy as the main dish. I am talking now about the ones prepared from meat broths, vegetables and grains. Another appetizer would be “Xaxiki” yoghurt, finely grated cucumber and garlic.
Rice is a striking element in mainly every meat or vegetarian dish in the Turkish tradition. “Pilaf” as they call it, is steamed rice, or bulgur served alongside meats and other delicious treats.
Turkish sweets are famous throughout the world and many of these have milk as the basic ingredient such as “sütlac”, “tavuk gögsü”, “kazandibi”, “helva”, “asure”, but the best-known are “baklava” and “kadayif” pastries.
Turkish men are passionate drinkers when it comes to alcohol; they have this daily ceremony with “meze” a type of appetizer including meats, cheeses and vegetables combined in a certain way accompanied by humus and pastirma (raw pressed meat – very spicy), while they pour and share the Raki among friends, in the after work hours. Raki is an alcoholic beverage known to be quite heavy with a great percentage of alcohol.
Another genuine specialty would be the Turkish coffee, thick, dark and black served with sugar cubes or “lokum” (a starchy mixture, very sweet flavored with flower scent or nuts). Other authentic drinks to the place would be Turkish tea, ayran, shira, salgam, sahlep and boza.
Many of the recipes and dishes above you can enjoy around Istanbul for very little money, surprisingly. Some of the best doners are served in some pretty unimpressive locals, without any striking interiors that catch the eye. However, there are also high class restaurants that will leave you breathless with all the class and fine taste, almost fictive in how the tradition and modernism are combined with such sense and sensibility.