Also SEE … Turkish Cuisine / Recipes
Turkish cuisine (Turkish: Türk mutfağı) is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines, including those of western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialities — many with strong regional associations.
Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, and a wider use of seafoods. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi), has been influenced by Balkan and Slavic cuisine, and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast — Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana — is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe (kanafeh).
Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia is famous specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.
A specialty’s name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between urfa kebab and adana kebab is the thickness of the skewer and the amount of hot pepper that kebab contains. Urfa kebab is less spicy and thicker than adana kebab.
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar etc.), butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, and kaymak. Sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage), pastırma, börek, simit, poğaça and soups are eaten as a morning meal in Turkey. A common Turkish speciality for breakfast is called menemen, which is prepared with tomatoes, green peppers, onion, olive oil and eggs. Invariably, Turkish tea is served at breakfast. The Turkish word for breakfast, kahvaltı, means “before coffee” (kahve, ‘coffee’; altı, ‘under’).
Homemade food is still preferred by Turkish people. Although the newly introduced way of life pushes the new generation to eat out, Turkish people generally prefer to eat at home. A typical meal starts with soup (in the winter), followed by a dish made with vegetables or legumes boiled in a pot (typically with meat or minced meat), then rice or bulgur pilaf in addition of a salad or cacık (made from diluted yogurt and minced cucumbers). Another typical meal is dried beans cooked with meat or pastırma mixed or eaten with rice pilaf and cacık.
Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major foreign fast food chains have opened all over Turkey, Turkish people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of the Turkish cuisine. In addition, some traditional Turkish foods, especially köfte, döner, kokoreç, börek and gözleme are often served as fast food in Turkey. Eating out has always been common in large commercial cities. Esnaf lokantası (meaning restaurants for shopkeepers and tradesmen) are widespread, serving traditional Turkish home cooking at affordable prices.
In the hot Turkish summer, a meal often consists of fried vegetables such as eggplant (aubergine), or potatoes served with yoghurt, tomato sauce, sheep’s cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, melons, or summer helva, which is lighter and less sweet than regular helva.
Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialties include: lamb, beef, chicken, fish, eggplants, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, and tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine. Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano, pul biber (red pepper), allspice, and thyme.
Oils and fats
Butter or margarine, olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and corn oil are widely used for cooking. Sesame, hazelnut, peanut and walnut oils are used as well. Kuyruk yağı (tail fat of sheep) is used mainly in kebabs and meat dishes.
In Ottoman cuisine, fruit frequently accompanied meat as a side dish. Plums, apricots, dates, apples, grapes, and figs are the most frequently used fruits, either fresh or dried, in Turkish cuisine.ple, komposto (compote) or hoşaf (from Persian khosh âb, literally meaning “nice water”) are among the main side dishes to meat or pilav. Dolma and pilaf usually contain currants or raisins. Etli yaprak sarma (vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice) used to be cooked with sour plums in Ottoman cuisine.
Eggplant (Turkish: patlıcan) has a special place in the Turkish cuisine. It is combined with patlıcan reçeli.
In some regions, meat, which was mostly eaten only at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı (Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (pilaf with meat), has become part of the daily diet since the introduction of industrial production. Veal, formerly shunned, is now widely consumed. The main use of meat in cooking remains the combination of ground meat and vegetable, with names such as kıymalı fasulye (beans with ground meat) or kıymalı ıspanak (spinach with ground meat, which is almost always served with yogurt). Alternatively, in coastal towns cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or hamsi (anchovies) are widely available, as well as many others with seasonal availability. Poultry consumption, almost exclusively of chicken and eggs, is common. Milk-fed lambs, once the most popular source of meat in Turkey, comprise a small part of contemporary consumption. Kuzu çevirme, cooking milk-fed lamb on a spit, once an important ceremony, is rarely seen. Because it is a predominantly Islamic country, pork plays no role in Turkish cuisine.
A bowl of Cacık, seasoned, diluted yogurt with chopped cucumber, eaten throughout the former Ottoman world. In Greece it is called tzatziki.
Yoghurt is an important element in Turkish cuisine. In fact, the English word yoghurt or yogurt derives from the Turkish word yoğurt. Yoghurt can accompany almost all meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a specialty called mantı (folded triangles of dough containing minced meat). In villages, yoghurt is regularly eaten with rice or bread. A thicker, higher-fat variety, süzme yoğurt or “strained yoghurt”, is made by straining the yoghurt curds from the whey. One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is made from yoghurt. Also, yoghurt is often used in the preparation of cakes, some soups and pastries.
Turkey produces many varieties of cheese, mostly from sheep’s milk. In general, these cheeses are not long matured, with a comparatively low fat content. The production of many kinds of cheese is local to particular regions.
Beyaz peynir is a salty cheese taking its name from its white color (“white cheese”). It is analogous to Greek feta but not as strong. This is produced in styles ranging from unmatured cheese curds to a quite strong mature version. It is eaten plain (e.g. as part of the traditional Turkish breakfast), used in salads, and incorporated into cooked foods such as menemen, börek and pide.
Çökelek is one of two types of unsalted white cheese, made by boiling the whey left over from making beyaz peynir. There are many regional varieties of çökelek. Some are eaten fresh while others are preserved, either by storage in goatskin bags or pottery jars, or by drying in the sun. Kurut and keş are regional names for dried bricks of yoghurt made from low-fat milk or from çökelek made from buttermilk.
Lor is the other type of unsalted white cheese, similarly made from the whey left over from kaşar manufacture. Lor is used in traditional desserts made from unsalted cheese like höşmerim.
Kaşar is Turkey’s other ubiquitous cheese, a moderately fatty sheep’s cheese similar to the Greek kasseri, sometimes marketed as “Turkish cheddar”, being closer in consistency and taste to mild cheddar-style cheese than other Turkish cheeses. Less matured kaşar, called fresh kaşar, is widely consumed as well.
Kaşkaval is a wheel-shaped yellow sheep’s cheese, similar to fresh kaşar. The name is probably of Italian origin.
Tulum is a sheep’s cheese preserved in an animal skin bag (Turkish: tulum, which is also the word for a traditional bagpipe). There are regional varieties of tulum peynir in such areas as İzmir, Ödemiş and Erzincan.
Otlu peynir (“herbed cheese”) is produced in many areas, chiefly in East Anatolia. Traditionally sheep’s or goat’s milk is used, but more recently cow’s milk otlu peynir has been produced. The type of herb used varies by region: in Van wild garlic[disambiguation needed] is traditional; Bitlis otlu peynir contains a damp-loving herb known as sof otu. In other areas horse mint (Mentha longifolia) and Pimpinella rhodentha are used.
Hellim (Greek: halloumi) is a salty, firm-textured cheese, generally with some mint added, made in Cyprus. In Turkey, it is common to fry hellim in a pan in some olive oil.
Gravyer (analogous to Swiss gruyere) is produced in Turkey as well. Among others, Kars is famous for its graviera.
Mihaliç peyniri or Kelle peyniri is a hard sheep’s cheese that can be grated, like Parmesan cheese. Sometimes goat or cow milk is used. It is a specialty from Karacabey, a town in Bursa province which was called Mihaliç during Byzantine and Ottoman period.
Örgü peyniri, “braided cheese”, is a specialty from Diyarbakır.
A Turkish meal usually starts with a thin soup (çorba). Soups are usually named after their main ingredient, the most common types being; mercimek (lentil) çorbası, yoghurt, or wheat (often mashed) called tarhana çorbası. Delicacy soups are the ones that are usually not the part of the daily diet, like (ishkembe) İşkembe soup and paça çorbası, although the latter also used to be consumed as a nutritious winter meal. Before the popularisation of the typical Turkish breakfast, soup was the default morning meal for some people.
The most common soups in Turkish cuisine are:
Buğday aşı/Yoğurt Çorbası/Ayran Çorbası (which can be served hot or cold)
Lahana (cabbage soup)
Bademli tavuk (chicken soup with almond)
Düğün (Wedding soup)
Mercimek (lentil soup)
Domates (tomato soup)
Tutmaç (lentil dish with noodles)
Mısır ekmeği (corn bread)
Pide (a broad, round and flat bread made of wheat flour)
Simit (also known as “gevrek”, another type of ring-shaped bread covered with sesame seeds. Simit is commonly eaten in Turkey, plain or with cheese, butter or marmalade).
Yufka a round and flat bread, made of wheat flour, thinner than pide.
Turkish cuisine has a range of savoury and sweet pastries. Dough based specialties form an integral part of traditional Turkish cuisine.
The use of layered dough is rooted in the nomadic character of early Central Asian Turks. The combination of domed metal sač and oklahu/oklava (the Turkish rod-style rolling pin) enabled the invention of the layered dough style used in börek (especially in su böreği, or ‘water pastry’, a salty baklava-like pastry with cheese filling), güllaç and baklava.
Börek is the general name for salty pastries made with yufka (a thicker version of phyllo dough), which consists of thin layers of dough. Su böreği, made with boiled yufka/phyllo layers, cheese and parsley, is the most frequently eaten. Çiğ börek (also known as Tatar böreği) is fried and stuffed with minced meat. Kol böreği is another well-known type of börek that takes its name from its shape, as do fincan (coffee cup), muska (talisman), Gül böreği (rose) or Sigara böreği (cigarette). Other traditional Turkish böreks include Talaş böreği (phyllo dough filled with vegetables and diced meat), Puf böreği. Laz[disambiguation needed] böreği is a sweet type of börek, widespread in the Black Sea region.
Poğaça is the label name for dough based salty pastries. Likewise çörek is another label name used for both sweet and salty pastries.
Gözleme is a food typical in rural areas, made of lavash bread or phyllo dough folded around a variety of fillings such as spinach, cheese and parsley, minced meat or potatoes and cooked on a large griddle (traditionally sač).
Katmer is another traditional rolled out dough. It can be salty or sweet according to the filling.
Lahmacun (meaning dough with meat in Arabic) is a thin flatbread covered with a layer of spiced minced meat, tomato, pepper, onion or garlic.
Pide, which can be made with minced meat (together with onion, chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices), kashar cheese, spinach, white cheese, pieces of meat, braised meat (kavurma), sucuk, pastırma or/and eggs put on rolled-out dough, is one of the most common traditional stone-baked Turkish specialities.
Açma is a soft bread found in most parts of Turkey. It is similar to simit in shape, is covered in a glaze, and is usually eaten as a part of breakfast or as a snack.
A vegetable dish can be a main course in a Turkish meal. A large variety of vegetables are used, such as spinach, leek, cauliflower, artichoke, cabbage, celery, eggplant, green and red bell peppers, string bean and jerusalem artichoke. A typical vegetable dish is prepared with a base of chopped onions, carrots sautéed first in olive oil and later with tomatoes or tomato paste. The vegetables and hot water will then be added. Quite frequently a spoon of rice and lemon juice is also added. Vegetable dishes usually tend to be served with its own water (the cooking water) thus often called in colloquial Turkish sulu yemek (literally “a dish with juice”). Minced meat can also be added to a vegetable dish but vegetable dishes that are cooked with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) are often served cold and do not contain meat. Spinach, leek, string bean and artichoke with olive oil are among the most widespread dishes in Turkey.
Dolma is the name used for stuffed vegetables. Like the vegetables cooked with olive oil as described above dolma with olive oil does not contain meat. Many vegetables are stuffed, most typically green peppers (biber dolması), eggplants, tomatoes, courgettes, or Zucchini in the U.S. (kabak dolması), vine leaves (yaprak dolması). If vine leaves are used, they are first pickled in brine. However, dolma is not limited to these common types; many other vegetables and fruits are stuffed with a meat and/or rice mixture. For example, artichoke dolma (enginar dolması) is an Aegean region specialty. Fillings used in dolma may consist of parts of the vegetable carved out for preparation, rice with spices and/or minced meat.
Mercimek köfte, although being named köfte, does not contain any meat. Instead, red lentil is used as the major ingredient together with spring onion, tomato paste etc.
Imam bayildi is a version of karnıyarık with no minced meat inside. It can be served as a meze as well.
Fried eggplant and pepper is a common summer dish in Turkey. It is served with yoghurt or tomato sauce and garlic.
Mücver is prepared with grated squash/courgette or potatoes, egg, onion, dill and/or cheese and flour. It can be either fried or cooked in the oven.
Pilaf can be served either as a side dish or main dish but bulgur pilavı (pilav made of boiled and pounded wheat – bulgur) is also widely eaten. The dishes made with kuru fasulye (white beans), nohut (chickpeas), mercimek (lentils), börülce (black-eyed peas), etc., combined with onion, vegetables, minced meat, tomato paste and rice, have always been common due to being economical and nutritious.
Turşu is pickle made with brine, usually with the addition of garlic. It is often enjoyed as an appetizer. It is made with a large variety of vegetables, from cucumber to courgette. In the towns on the Aegean coast, the water of turşu is consumed as a drink. It comes from the Persian “Torshi”, which refers to pickled “Torsh” (sour) vegetables.
Menemen consists of scrambled eggs cooked with tomato, green pepper, and onion.
Çılbır is another traditional Turkish food made with poached eggs, yoghurt and oil.
Ispanaklı yumurta consists of eggs with spinach and onion.
Kaygana can be described as something of a cross between the pancake and the omelet in Ottoman cuisine. It used to be served with cheese, honey, crushed nuts, or eggplant. However, it is almost forgotten in the big cities of Turkey.
Meze and salads
Meze is a selection of food served as the appetizer course with or without drinks. Some of them can be served as a main course as well.
Aside from olive, mature kaşar kashar cheese, white cheese, various mixed pickles turşu, frequently eaten Turkish mezes include:
Acılı ezme – hot spicy freshly mashed tomato with onion and green herbs
Acuka (also known as muhammara) – a spread having both Circassian and Syrian origins, prepared with from Aleppo pepper paste, ground walnuts, tomato paste, bread crumbs, garlic, and spices
Ahtapot (octopus) – served as a salad or grilled
Arnavut ciğeri (literally “Albanian liver”) – fried liver cubes served with onion, parsley and hot pepper
Roka (arugula) salad
Patlıcan salatası – eggplant salad
Bakla ezmesi – hummus prepared from broad bean
Barbunya pilaki – borlotti beans cooked with garlic, tomato paste, carrot and olive oil
Börek – very thin dough layers staffed with cheese, meat or vegetables
Cacık – cucumber with yoghurt, dried mint and olive oil
Cevizli biber – a meze prepared with walnut, red pepper, pepper paste, onion and cumin
Çerkez tavuğu (literally “Circassian chicken”)
Çiğ köfte – raw mea patties, similar to steak tartare, prepared with ground beef (sometimes lamb) and fine-ground bulgur; a vegetarian version using tomato paste is known as etsiz çiğ köfte (literally “meatless raw meatballs”)
Çoban salatası – a mixed salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, green peppers, and parsley
Deniz börülcesi (Salicornia europaea, also called common glasswort or marsh samphire)
Dolma – vine leaves, cabbage leaves, chard leaves, peppers, tomato, squash, pumpkin, eggplant or mussels stuffed with rice and/or meat
Fasulye pilaki – white beans cooked with garlic, tomato paste, carrot and olive oil
Fava – broad/horse bean puree
Hardalotu – mustard plant salad
Humus (from the Arabic for “chickpea”) – a spread prepared from sesame tahini, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.
İçli köfte (also known as oruk) – served either as a meze or a main dish; especially in the east of Turkey, when it is cooked through boiling in a pot, içli köfte is served as a main dish
Kabak çiçeği dolması – stuffed zucchini blossoms, a kind of dolma
Kalamar (calamari) – fried or grilled, served with tarator sauce
Karides (shrimp) – served as a salad, grilled, or stewed with vegetables in a güveç (a casserole)
Kısır (also known as ‘sarma içi’) – a very popular meze or side dish prepared with fine-ground bulgur, tomato paste, parsley, onion, garlic, sour pomegranate juice and a lot of spices
Kızartma, various fried vegetables (eggplants, peppers, courgettes) served with yoghurt or tomato-and-garlic sauce
Köfte – meatballs
Midye (mussels) – fried and served with tarator sauce or as midye dolma (mussels stuffed with rice filling)
Muhammara: see Acuka
Oruk: see İçli köfte
Piyaz – white bean or potato salad with onion and vinegar
Şakşuka or in another version köpoğlu – fried and chopped eggplants and peppers served with garlic yogurt or tomato sauce
Semizotu (summer purslane) salad – served with yogurt
Tarama – a spread made with fish roe
Turp otu salad
Zeytin piyazi – olives and green onion salad
Dolma and sarma
Dolma is a verbal noun of the Turkish verb dolmak ‘to be stuffed(or filled)’, and means simply ‘stuffed thing’. Dolma has a special place in Turkish cuisine. It can be eaten either as a meze or a main dish. It can be cooked either as a vegetable dish or meat dish. If a meat mixture is put in, it is usually served hot with yoghurt and spices such as oregano and red pepper powder with oil.
Zeytinyağlı dolma (dolma with olive oil) is the dolma made with vine leaves stuffed with a rice-spice mixture and cooked with olive oil. This type of dolma does not contain meat, is served cold and also referred to as sarma, which means “wrapping” in Turkish. If dolma do not contain meat, they are sometimes described as yalancı dolma meaning “fake” dolma. Dried fruit such as figs or cherries and cinnamon used to be added into the mixture to sweeten zeytinyağlı dolma in Ottoman cuisine. Vine leaves (yaprak) could be filled not only with rice and spices but also with meat and rice, etli yaprak sarma, in which case it was often served hot with yoghurt. The word sarma is also used for some types of desserts, such as fıstık sarma (wrapped pistachio).
Melon dolma along with quince or apple dolma was one of the palace’s specialties (raw melon stuffed with minced meat, onion, rice, almonds, cooked in an oven). In contemporary Turkey, a wide variety of dolma is prepared. Although it is not possible to give an exhaustive list of dolma recipes, courgette (“kabak”), aubergine (“patlıcan”), tomato (“domates”), pumpkin (“balkabağı”), pepper (“biber”), cabbage (“lahana”) (black or white cabbage), chard (“pazı”) and mussel (“midye”) dolma constitute the most common types. Instead of dried cherries in the palace cuisine, currants are usually added to the filling of dolma cooked in olive oil. A different type of dolma is mumbar dolması, for which the membrane of intestines of sheep is filled up with a spicy rice-nut mixture.
Karnıyarık is a Turkish and Iranian Azeri dish consisting of an eggplant stuffed with a mix of sautéed chopped onion, garlic, black pepper, tomatoes, parsley and ground meat.
Kuzu Güveç (lamb cooked in casserole)
Kuzu Kapama (spring lamb stewed)
Haşlama (boiled lamb with vegetables and lemon juice)
Kavurma (“kavurma”, which means roasting/parching in Turkish, is generally used for roasted lamb.
Çoban kavurma is a variety of it, prepared with diced lamb with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers and herbs. Kavurma is one of the favorite dishes of Ramadan.)
Alinazik kebab, a home-style Turkish kebab variety which is a specialty of the Gaziantep province of Turkey.
Hünkar Beğendi (meaning that the sovereign/sultan liked it, sultan’s delight, the dish consists of the puree of grilled eggplant with cashar cheese topped with cubed lamb meat)
Türlü (a stew of vegetables and meat cooked in güveç-casserole)
Tandır (without adding any water, the meat is cooked very slowly with a special technique)
İncik (lamb on the bone cooked in the oven)
Boraniye (broad bean/spinach/squash boraniye, vegetables cooked together with meat, yoghurt and chickpea)
Mahmudiye (a palace speciality consisting of chicken meat mixed with honey, apricots, almonds, currants and black pepper)
Karnıyarık (split-belly eggplant) (eggplants are cut off and fried. Then they are filled with minced meat, onion, garlic and tomato paste and cooked in the oven)
Köfte (meatball) is another meat dish in Turkey. The word köfte is sometimes preceded by the name of a town, which refers to the technique for cooking it or the ingredients or spices specifically used in that region, for example; İnegöl köftesi, Sultanahmet köftesi, İzmir köfte, Akçaabat köfte, Bursa köfte, Filibe köfte, Tire köfte, Islama köfte (mainly in Sakarya province) etc. Its main ingredients are minced meat, parsley, bread-egg (not necessarily, usually homemade köfte contains egg yolk and some crumbled bread) and a range of spices: cumin, oregano, mint powder, red or black pepper powder with onion or garlic.
Kadınbudu köfte is another traditional speciality; minced meat is mixed with cooked rice and fried. Içli köfte can be described as a shell of “bulgur” filled with onion, minced meat and nuts. Çiğ köfte is a meze from south-eastern Turkey meaning raw meatballs, prepared with “bulgur” and raw minced meat. Terbiyeli Sulu Köfte is another meatball speciality cooked with flour, tomato paste and water in which lemon and egg sauce is added.
Sujuk (sucuk) is a form of raw sausage (made with beef meat and a range of spices, especially garlic, slightly similar to Spanish chorizo) commonly eaten with breakfast. Instead of classical sausages (sosis), sujuk is the most used ingredient for snacks and fast-food style toasts and sandwiches in Turkey.
Pastırma is another famous beef delicacy (see pastrami). Both pastırma and sujuk can be put in kuru fasulye (dry beans) to enrich the aroma. Both can be served as a meze as well. Sucuk or pastırma with scrambled eggs, served in a small pan called sahan, is eaten at breakfast in Turkey.
Kokoreç (the intestines of sheep) with spices is a traditional low-price fast food in Turkey.
Liver is fried in Turkish cuisine. “Arnavut ciğeri” (meaning Albanian liver), served with onion and sumac, is usually eaten as a meze, in combination with other mezes such as fava. “Edirne ciğeri” is another famous liver dish from Edirne. Liver is first frozen so that it can be cut into very thin layers. After being cut off, liver layers are fried.
Kelle (Roasted Sheep’s Head) – From the Persian word for “head”: “Kaleh”.
Kuzu Etli Enginar (artichokes with lamb)
Etli Taze Fasulye (green beans stew with meat)
Pastırmalı Kuru Fasulye (white kidney bean with pastirma)
Etli Bamya (okra with meat or chicken)
İşkembeli Nohut (chickpea with tripe)
Piliç Dolma (stuffed chicken with spice filling)
Kebab refers to a great variety of meat-based dishes in Turkish cuisine. Kebab in Turkey encompasses not only grilled or skewered meats, but also stews and casseroles.
Adana kebap or kıyma kebabı – kebab with hand-minced (zırh) meat mixed with chili on a flat wide metal skewer (shish); associated with Adana region although very popular all over Turkey.
Ali Paşa kebabı, “Ali Pasha kebab” – cubed lamb with tomato, onion and parsley wrapped in phillo.
Alinazik kebab – Ground meat kebab sautéed in a saucepan, with garlic, yogurt and eggplants added.
Bahçıvan kebabı, ‘gardener’s kebab’ – Boneless lamb shoulder mixed with chopped onions and tomato paste.
Beykoz kebabı – Tomato and onion flavoured lamb, wrapped in aubergine slices and garnished with lamb brains.
Beyti kebab – Ground lamb or beef, seasoned and grilled on a skewer, often served wrapped in lavash and topped with tomato sauce and yoghurt, traced back to the famous kebab house Beyti in İstanbul and particularly popular in Turkey’s larger cities.
Bostan kebabı – Lamb and aubergine casserole.
Buğu kebabı, “steamed kebap” – cooked in low heat until the meat releases its moisture and reabsorbs it.
Cağ kebab, ‘spoke kebab’ – Cubes of lamb roasted first on a cağ (a horizontal rotating spit) and then on a skewer, a specialty of Erzurum region with recently rising popularity.
Ciğerli kağıt kebabı, ‘liver paper kebab’ – Lamb liver kebab mixed with meat and marinated with thyme, parsley and dill.
Çardak kebabı, ‘arbor kebab’ – Stuffed lamb meat in a crêpe.
Çökertme kebabı – Sirloin veal kebap stuffed with yogurt and potatoes.
Çömlek kebabı, ‘earthenware bowl kebab’ – Meat and vegetable casserole (called a güveç in Turkish) with eggplant, carrots, shallots, beans, tomatoes and green pepper.
Çöp şiş, “small skewer kebab” – a specialty of Selçuk and Germencik near Ephesus, pounded boneless meat with tomatoes and garlic marinated with black pepper, thyme and oil on wooden skewers.
Hünkâri kebabı, ‘Sultan’s kebab’ – Sliced lamb meat mixed with patlıcan beğendi (aubergine purée), basil, thyme and bay leaf.
İskender kebap – döner kebap served with yoghurt, tomato sauce and butter, originated in Bursa. The kebab was invented by İskender Efendi in 1867. He was inspired from Cağ kebab and turned it from horizontal to vertical.
İslim kebabı, ‘steamed kebab’ – Another version of the aubergine kebab without its skin, marinated in sunflower oil.
Kağıt kebabı – Lamb cooked in a paper wrapping.
Kuyu kebabı, ‘pit kebab’ – Prepared from the goat it is special for Aydın region, similar to tandır kebabı.
Kuzu incik kebabı, ‘lamb shank kebab’ – Lamb shanks mixed with peeled eggplants and chopped tomatoes, cream, salt and pepper.
Kuzu şiş – Shish prepared with marinated milk-fed lamb meat.
Köfte kebap or Shish köfte – minced lamb meatballs with herbs, often including parsley and mint, on a stick, grilled.
Kılıç şiş – Brochette of swordfish
Manisa kebabı – This Manisa region version of the kebab is smaller and flat size shish meat on the sliced pide bread, flavored with butter, and stuffed with tomato, garlic and green pepper.
Orman kebabı, ‘forest kebab’ – Lamb meat on the bone and cut in large pieces mixed with carrots, potatoes and peas.
Patates kebabı, ‘potato kebab’ – Beef or chicken mixed with potatoes, onions, tomato sauce and bay leaves.
Patlıcan kebabı, ‘aubergine kebab’ – Special kebap meat marinated in spices and served with eggplant (aubergine), hot pide bread and a yoghurt sauce.
Ramazan kebabı, ‘Ramadan kebab’ – Meat mixed with yogurt, tomato and garlic stuffed with fresh mint or garnish on Pide bread.
Şiş kebabı – Prepared with fish, lamb or chicken meat on thin metal or reed rods, grilled.
Şiş tavuk or Tavuk şiş – Yogurt-marinated chicken grilled on a stick
Sivas kebabı – Associated with the Sivas region, similar to Tokat kebab but especially lamb ribs are preferred and it also differs from Tokat kebabı on the point that there are no potatoes inside.
Susuz kebap, ‘waterless kebab’ – Cooked after draining excess fluid from the meat rubbed with salt and cinnamon in saucepan.
Talaş kebabı, ‘sawdust kebab’ – Diced lamb, mixed with grated onions, brown meat mixed with flour dough.
Tandır kebabı, ‘tandoor kebab’ – Lamb pieces (sometimes a whole lamb) baked in an oven called a tandır, which requires a special way of cooking for hours. Served with bread and raw onions.
Tas kebabı, ‘bowl kebab’ – Stewed kebab in a bowl, beginning with the cooking of the vegetables in butter employing a method called yaga vurmak, (“butter infusion”), before the meat itself is cooked in the same grease.
Testi kebabı, ‘earthenware-jug kebab’ – Ingredients are similar to çömlek kebabı, prepared in a testi instead of a güveç, generally found in Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region.
Tokat kebabı – Associated with the Tokat region, it is made with veal marinated in olive oil, aubergine, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic and special pita bread.
Urfa kebabı – from Urfa, similar to Adana kebab, but not spicy
Turkey is surrounded by seas which contain a large variety of fish. Fish are grilled, fried or cooked slowly by the buğulama (poaching) method. Buğulama is fish with lemon and parsley, covered while cooking so that it will be cooked with steam. The term pilâki is also used for fish cooked with various vegetables, including onion in the oven. In the Black Sea region, fish are usually fried with thick corn flour. Fish are also eaten cold; as smoked (isleme) or dried (çiroz), canned, salted or pickled (lâkerda). Fish is also cooked in salt or in dough in Turkey. Pazıda Levrek is a seafood speciality which consists of sea bass cooked in chard leaves. In fish restaurants, it is possible to find other fancy fish varieties like balık dolma (stuffed fish), balık iskender (inspired by Iskender kebab), fishballs or fish en papillote. Fish soup prepared with vegetables, onion and flour is common in coastal towns and cities. In Istanbul’s Eminönü and other coastal districts, grilled fish served in bread with tomatoes, herbs and onion is a popular fast food. In the inner parts of Turkey, trout alabalık is common as it is the main type of freshwater fish. Popular seafood mezes include stuffed mussels, fried mussel and fried kalamar (squid) with tarator sauce.
Popular sea fishes in Turkey include: anchovy hamsi, sardine sardalya, bonito palamut, gilt-head bream çupra or çipura, red mullet barbun(ya), sea bass levrek, whiting mezgit (allied to the cod fish) or bakalyaro, swordfish kılıç, turbot kalkan, red pandora mercan, tırança, istavrit and white grouper lagos.
One of the world-renowned desserts of Turkish cuisine is baklava. Baklava is made either with pistachio or walnut. Turkish cuisine has a range of baklava-like desserts which include şöbiyet, bülbül yuvası, saray sarması, sütlü nuriye, and sarı burma.
Kadaif (‘Kadayıf’) is a common Turkish dessert that employs shredded yufka. There are different types of kadaif: tel (wire) or Burma (wring) kadayıf, both of which can be prepared with either walnut or pistachio.
Although carrying the label “kadayıf”, ekmek kadayıfı is totally different from “tel kadayıf” (see ). Künefe and ekmek kadayıfı are rich in syrup and butter, and are usually served with kaymak (clotted/scrambled butter). Künefe contains wire kadayıf with a layer of melted cheese in between and it is served hot with pistachio or walnut.
Among milk-based desserts, the most popular ones are muhallebi, su muhallebisi, sütlaç (rice pudding), keşkül, kazandibi (meaning the bottom of “kazan” because of its burnt surface), and tavuk göğsü (a sweet, gelatinous, milk pudding dessert quite similar to kazandibi, to which very thinly peeled chicken breast is added to give a chewy texture). A speciality from the Mediterranean region is haytalı, which consists of pieces of starch pudding and ice cream (or crushed ice) put in rose water sweetened with syrup.
Helva (halva): un helvası (flour helva is usually cooked after someone has died), irmik helvası (cooked with semolina and pine nuts), yaz helvası (made from walnut or almond), tahin helvası (crushed sesame seeds), kos helva, pişmaniye (floss halva).
Other popular desserts include; Revani (with semolina and starch), şekerpare, kalburabasma, dilber dudağı, vezir parmağı, hanım göbeği, kemalpaşa, tulumba, zerde, höşmerim, paluze, irmik tatlısı/peltesi, lokma.
Güllaç is a dessert typically served at Ramadan, which consists of very thin large dough layers put in the milk and rose water, served with pomegranate seeds and walnut. A story is told that in the kitchens of the Palace, those extra thin dough layers were prepared with “prayers”, as it was believed that if one did not pray while opening phyllo dough, it would never be possible to obtain such thin layers.
Aşure can be described as a sweet soup containing boiled beans, wheat and dried fruits. Sometimes cinnamon and rose water is added when being served. According to legend, it was first cooked on Noah’s Ark and contained seven different ingredients in one dish. All the Anatolian peoples have cooked and are still cooking aşure especially during the month of Muharrem.
Some traditional Turkish desserts are fruit-based: ayva tatlısı (quince), incir tatlısı (fig), kabak tatlısı (pumpkin), elma tatlısı (apple) and armut tatlısı (pear). Fruits are cooked in a pot or in the oven with sugar, carnation and cinnamon (without adding water). After being chilled, they are served with walnut or pistachio and kaymak.
Homemade cookies are commonly called kurabiye in Turkish. The most common types are acıbadem kurabiyesi (prepared only with egg, sugar and almond), un kurabiyesi (flour kurabiye) and cevizli kurabiye (kurabiye with walnut). Another dough based dessert is ay çöreği.
Tahin-pekmez is a traditional combination especially in rural areas. Tahin is sesame paste and pekmez is grape syrup. These are sold separately and mixed before consumption.
Lokum (Turkish delight), which was eaten for digestion after meals and called “rahat hulkum” in the Ottoman era, is another well-known sweet/candy with a range of varieties.
Cezerye, cevizli (walnut) sucuk (named after its sucuk/sujuk like shape, also known as Churchkhela in Circassian region) and pestil (fruit pestils) are among other common sweets.
Marzipan badem ezmesi or fıstık ezmesi (made of ground pistachio) is another common confection in Turkey.
Another jelly like Turkish sweet is macun. Mesir macunu of Manisa/İzmir (which was also called “nevruziye” as this macun was distributed on the first day of spring in the Ottoman Palace) contains 41 different spices. It is still believed that “mesir macunu” is good for health and has healing effects. As with lokum, nane macunu (prepared with mint) used to be eaten as a digestive after heavy meals. Herbs and flowers having curative effects were grown in the gardens of Topkapı under the control of the chief doctor “hekimbaşı” and pharmacists of the Palace who used those herbs for preparing special types of macun and sherbet.
There are also several types of ice creams based salep powder or Cornstarch with Rose water such as Dondurma (Turkish gum ice cream), dried fruit ice cream, ice cream rose petals.
Dried fruit, used in dolma, pilav, meat dishes and other desserts is also eaten with almonds or walnuts as a dessert. Figs, grapes, apricots are the most widespread dried fruits.
Kaymak (clotted cream-butter) is often served with desserts to cut the sweetness.
Tea or Turkish coffee, with or without sugar, is usually served after dinner or more rarely together with desserts.
Although the majority of Turks profess the Islamic religion, alcoholic beverages are as widely available as in Europe. However, some Turks abstain from drinking alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan. There are a few local brands of lager such as Bomonti, Marmara34 and Efes Pilsen and a large variety of international beers that are produced in Turkey such as Skol, Beck’s, Miller, Foster’s, Carlsberg and Tuborg.
There are a variety of local wines produced by Turkish brands such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Corvus, Kayra, Pamukkale and Diren which are getting more popular with the change of climatic conditions that affect the production of wine. A range of grape varieties are grown in Turkey. For the production of red wine, the following types of grapes are mainly used; in Marmara Region, Pinot Noir, Adakarası, Papazkarası, Semillion, Kuntra, Gamay, Cinsault; in Aegean Region, Carignane, Çalkarası, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet; in Black Sea Region and eastern part of the country, Öküzgözü, Boğazkere; in Central Anatolia, Kalecik Karası, Papazkarası, Dimrit; in Mediterranean Region, Sergi Karası, Dimrit. As for white wine, the grapes can be listed as follows; in Marmara Region, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillion, Beylerce, Yapıncak; in Aegean Region, muscat and semillion; in Black Sea Region, Narince; in Central Anatolia, Emir, Hasandede. In addition to mass production, it is quite popular to produce wine in private farms and sell them in the locality. Visitors can find different “home made” wines in Central Anatolia (Kapadokya/Cappadocia region – Nevşehir), Aegean coast (Selçuk and Bozcaada (an island in the Aegean Sea)).
At breakfast and all day long Turkish people drink black tea. Tea is made with two teapots in Turkey. Strong bitter tea made in the upper pot is diluted by adding boiling water from the lower.
Ayran (salty yoghurt drink) is the most common cold beverage, which may accompany almost all dishes in Turkey and Iran.
Kefir is prepared with kefir grains and milk.
Şalgam suyu (mild or hot turnip juice) is another important non-alcoholic beverage which is usually combined with kebabs or served together with rakı.
Boza is a traditional winter drink, which is also known as millet wine (served cold with cinnamon and sometimes with leblebi).
Sahlep is another favorite in winter (served hot with cinnamon). Sahlep is extracted from the roots of wild orchids and may be used in Turkish ice cream as well. This was a popular drink in western Europe before coffee was brought from Africa and came to be known.
Sherbet (Turkish şerbet, pronounced [ʃeɾˈbet]) is a syrup which can be made from any of a wide variety of ingredients, especially fruits, flowers, or herbs. Examples include pear, quince, strawberry, apple, cornelian cherry, pomegranate, orange, rose petals, rose hips, or licorice and spices. Sherbet is drunk diluted with cold water.
In classical Turkish cuisine, hoşaf (from the Persian “Khosh-ab”, meaning “fresh water”) alternatively accompanies meat dishes and pilav (pilaf).
*Courtesey of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_cuisine